Taghi Askari, a 100-year-old Iranian diver, prepares to compete at the 2024 World Aquatics Masters Championships in Doha.
Askari has a long and storied history in diving, having won medals at the first-ever Asian Games in 1951 and competing at national levels throughout his career. Despite retiring from the sport after winning a gold medal at age 41, he has remained passionate about diving and is excited to be back in the pool again.
“I have had a love of diving since I was a teenager until today,” Askari told World Aquatics. “Nothing has changed between 1951 and now, except my performance!” He first encountered diving at a swimming pool near his childhood home in Iran where other children were somersaulting into the water.
Over time, Askari’s love of diving evolved into a passion that led him to win medals at both the Asian Games and national titles in Iran. He recalled his last competition as being particularly memorable: “When I was competing at a national level the last championships I did was when I was 41 years old,” he said. “I achieved a gold medal at the national level, and after that, I said goodbye to the sport, but at least with a gold medal.”
The sport of diving has come a long way since Askari’s early days of competition. By the time the games were held in Tehran in 1974, Chinese swimmers had emerged as major players on the international stage. “The Chinese swimmers had entered this beautiful sport and they started to improve by a lot – we just couldn’t catch them as we stayed at the same level we started at,” Askari said. Despite facing stiff competition from younger divers around the world, he remains confident that his experience will give him an edge during competition. “With all these new techniques they are using nowadays I am still very much familiar with them because of my past experiences,” he said.
Askari is among several athletes over age 25 who will be competing in the World Aquatics Masters Championships, which takes place shortly after the elite world championships open to participants aged over 25.