There may be the small matter of two thrilling title fights approaching their climax this weekend in Japan, but following Saturday's first rounds all eyes turned to a stunning spectacle that was unfolding away from the platforms on the striking Sandanbeki cliffs, as cliff diving legend, Orlando Duque, was joined by the greatest Olympic diver of all time, Greg Louganis, for a synchro dive direct from the rustic rocks in Shirahama.
56-year-old Louganis, a regular on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series judging panel, and a four-time Olympic gold medallist in the eighties, rolled back the years and proved he's still got the flexibility, courage and aerial awareness to dabble in something only the most fearless and accomplished cliff divers attempt these days. The five-time world champion and six-time Pan American Games winner may be the only male to ever to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games, but even a man of his experience was a little hesitant as he stepped onto the daunting ledge high above the Pacific Ocean:
"I might be a good diver from the 10m platform or 3m springboard, but not cliff diving", explained Louganis, before upping his anxiety levels a little further, "What do I need to do Orlando? Oh my God!"
Nervous Greg Louganis looks down from the cliff face as a smiling Orlando Duque placates his fears. Photo: Jason Halyako/Red Bull Content Pool.
If there's one person you would want alongside you at this point, it would have to be the Colombian cliff diving legend Duque, holder of 13 world titles, eight World Series event wins and two Guiness world records. Cool, calm and never one to crack under pressure; the 42-year-old's charming smile and infectious laugh would put even the most fearful of diving partners at ease.
"You know what you have to do", said a reassuring Duque. Of course you do, you'll probably do a perfect dive."
And off they went. Two of the world's most famous and decorated divers, leaping in synchronicity from the bare rocks. As they approached the water, it was clear that old habits die hard though. Duque, after years of hitting the water from heights of up to 28m, switched on his safety mechanism with a feet-first landing. Louganis, never a cliff diver before, rolled head-first out of his dive and immaculately entered the water the only way he knows how.
Afterwards, the former Olympic hero couldn't contain his excitement:
"That was so insane. It was awesome. I'm very thankful that Orlando was here to help and coach me through, because this is so different from what I'm used to. I think it's so important to experience what I'm judging, and to know what the kids are going through."
All smiles after a safe landing - Louganis was thrilled to exceed his usual 10m limit off the Sandanbeki cliffs. Photo: Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool.
So, was this experience enough to satisfy the judge's adventurous urges? Not a chance.
"Now the next goal is maybe from 20m", said Louganis. "I want to do a reverse three position somersault. I've been going through it in my mind but I haven't got the courage yet."
It looks like this won't be the last we see of the great Greg Louganis climbing rocky heights to indulge his cliff diving cravings.