Can Hunt Bridge the Gap in Mostar?

Gary Hunt
6-time champion arrives in Bosnia and Herzegovina with no bridge win in four attempts

England's Gary Hunt has been an almost unstoppable force in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series since its inception in 2009. 29 wins in 63 events have led him to six titles, including the last three in a row, but there is one obstacle that he is yet to master: bridges. Four times he has competed from bridge into river – twice in Bilbao and twice in Mostar – and four times he has failed to land on top of the podium. As the 2017 season moves into its penultimate event at Stari Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina, can he finally break this unwanted run and at the same time fire himself back into the men's lead?

For a man with such a formidable record from the 27 metre platform, it's certainly an odd statistic in an otherwise commanding career. Mostar and Bilbao are the only locations where the World Series has been staged on at least two occasions without the Brit taking victory. Looking at it from a technical point of view, there are a few obvious differences between diving from bridges and the more conventional cliff locations, which may go some way to explaining this blot on his record.

Hunt showed no nerves as he trained from the bridge where he hasn't won in two previous attempts. Photo: Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool.

"Visually, it's a bit more challenging because you have less landmarks," explains Hunt. "When you're jumping from a cliff you can see the water level exactly against the cliff, whereas off a bridge there are only landmarks on the side. From the front and back you're just looking at a long stretch of water.

"Also, the current of the river can make things difficult. I feel like on some dives, if you're slightly short of vertical on a calm lake, maybe it can still be a clean entry. But here, it's less forgiving."

But the Brit is quick to point out that we shouldn't read too much into this, and that it's more coincidence than a personal struggle with those conditions.

"I didn't actually know of this statistic before this week," says Hunt, "but I feel it's just a coincidence. I have won other events outside of the World Series from bridges. Saying that though, it's a stat that I don't like, and I'll be doing my best to put an end to it this week.

Indeed, in those four previous bridge stops, Hunt did grab second place twice, which does seem to back up his belief that he doesn't fundamentally struggle with them.

The Brit finished tenth on the Bilbao bridge in 2015, but also has two second place finishes to his name in Bilbao 2014 and Mostar 2016. Photo: Sebas Romero/Red Bull Content Pool.

But what about the extra pressure on him this time around? With just two stops to go, he finds himself in very unfamiliar territory. In the past three years, the 'brilliant Brit' has had the title wrapped up with an event to spare, but with 2017 living up to its billing as the most unpredictable season ever, he currently sits in second place behind fellow Brit, Blake Aldridge.

Four different winners in each of the four stops so far mean that the top of the men's standings is excitingly close, with just 70 points separating the top five divers. Following closely behind the English duo are Mexico's Jonathan Paredes and Americans David Colturi and Andy Jones.

Jonathan Paredes, one of the main challengers to Hunt's crown this season, leaps from Stari Most during Thursday's training session. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

"For me, it's difficult to even think about the actual competition when I'm up on the platform, let alone the whole World Series," says Hunt. "I know it's more important to win this one because I'm trailing, but when I'm up there I'm focused on nothing else but that particular dive.

"I feel like I've fixed the problems I was having with my dives, and I'm back using the front triple with 3 ½ twists again. I'm not thinking about the title just yet, but having been here twice I would love to get on top of that podium in front of all the fans this time around."

As far as the 33-year-old is concerned, his past record here is clearly all water under the bridge, and it will be business as usual for the reigning champion this weekend as he attempts to reclaim the men's lead with a first ever victory in Mostar. Either way, a dramatic and tight conclusion to this season is guaranteed when the World Series travels to a new location in Chile in October.

Watch Live from Mostar

This event will be LIVE on September 16 from 14.30 local time (12.30 GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com and Red Bull TV. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. Find out more at about.redbull.tv

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