Trailing heading into the fifth and next-to-last round, He nailed an impressive dive to ultimately finish with 544.95 points. It was He’s second gold this week after dominating the synchronized 3-meter springboard with Qin Kai on Tuesday.
He’s victories in 2009, 2011, and 2013 match American Phillip Boggs’ record of three titles from 1973-78.
“I don’t think records exist in diving,” He said. “I had never thought about it. But I am very happy now that I have it.”
He finished with 544.95 points through six dives.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, of Russia, took silver with 508.00 points, his second at these worlds, while Yahel Castillo, of Mexico, claimed bronze with 498.30.
The 26-year-old He’s latest title came a year after he was dethroned as Olympic champion in this event. He said that the adversity had made him work harder.
“It is normal there are some doubts, nobody can be on top all time,” He said. “I failed and made mistakes, but I grew from those mistakes and faced the future.”
The final was billed as a two-man battle between He and Qin, given their run of titles in recent years and the elimination of Olympic gold medalist Ilia Zakharov, of Russia, in the semifinals.
But Qin never recovered from a poor start. A blown third dive, when the 2007 champion entered the water at a strange angle, doomed him to a fifth-place finish.
Instead, the steadier Kuznetsov emerged as the leader. But He executed a tough forward tuck with 4 ½ somersaults after launching himself from a running start to total 102.60 points and overtake the Russian.
Earlier at the Montjuic Municipal pool, Chinese duo He Zi and Wang Han topped the semifinals for the women’s 3-meter springboard.
He led the 18-diver field with 370 points. Wang was next with 362.40, and Canada’s Jennifer Abel was third with 344.10. The final will be held on Saturday.
He took gold in the women’s 1-meter springboard by 0.10 points on Tuesday, the smallest margin of victory in diving world championship history.
The swimming competition begins Sunday.
American Missy Franklin will take on a Phelpsian-like workload by swimming eight events – five individual races, plus all three relays.