Champion Gary Hunt made it back-to-back wins in the 2015 World Series with victory in front of a record-crowd of 75,000 in La Rochelle, France, on Sunday. Fellow Brit Blake Aldridge was second after executing a new dive - the most difficult in the sport, and Colombian Orlando Duque finished third in a contest that saw 13 cliff divers leap 27.5 metres from the Tour Saint-Nicolas during a total of four rounds of competition.
Hunt's points haul of 516.00 saw him finish comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals, which included compatriot and close friend Blake Aldridge. 30-year-old Englishman Hunt, who has tasted victory in three of the five World Series events staged in La Rochelle, followed up victory in this year's first stop in Colombia last month with another in France to take a firm grip in the overall standings.
For the full list of scores and updated standings, visit redbullcliffdiving.com/results
Second-placed Aldridge debuted a brand-new dive in World Series competition on Sunday - his reverse double somersault with five twists has now overtaken Hunt's own triple quad as the hardest dive in the world, with a Degree of Difficulty of 6.3. Executed successfully, it has the potential to catapult Aldridge to the top and so it proved in La Rochelle. The 8s from the judges helping to ensure that Blake, with a total of 460.35 points, joined Hunt in making it an English one-two on the podium for the first time in the World Series.
Orlando Duque, who finished on 456.20 points, completed the top-three with a second successive third-placed finish in 2015, but there was disappointment for former champion Artem Silchenko, the winner of the last event staged in La Rochelle in 2013, as the Russian missed out on a place in the final having lost his head-to-head with Hunt.
Disappointment, but also relief, was the emotion felt by Steven LoBue after the US athlete, comfortably in the lead in his own head-to-head against Michal Navratil, struck the platform with his head in Round 2 during the execution of a twist for his triple quad dive. LoBue somehow kept his concentration and completed the dive, but afterwards was sporting a deep cut above his left eye.
LoBue, and the other World Series athletes, will not have long to recover from La Rochelle, however, with the next stop taking place in Texas in under two weeks' time.
REACTION FROM THE TOP-THREE
Gary Hunt (UK)
It's amazing, it's the start to the season that I really wanted and doing it here in La Rochelle... it's extra special! This competition has such a history behind it. We were all nervous thinking what it was going to be like, but today was great – it wasn't too cold, there was hardly any wind. The conditions were perfect – the best we've had in La Rochelle – the crowd were amazing as well and to finish on top of the podium is the cherry on top of the cake. It's been a great start to the year for me and it was great seeing Blake [Aldridge] on the podium as well – we talked about doing a one-two this year and we've done it already so it's an amazing feeling.
Blake Aldridge (UK)
I'm delighted. I came into the week not feeling very well. I didn't feel myself yesterday, but fortunately I did a good dive and started today off in second. I still didn't feel 100 percent today, but got straight up and did my big new dive in training and that went down well. That relieved a lot of pressure and spurred me on. To finish second... I'm delighted. I've got such good memories of this place. It's where I learnt to cliff dive, where I got my first podium and now I've got a third place and a second place here. It's always a good place to come to, the crowd's always amazing. Gary [Hunt] and I have both been on the podium together, but we've not done a British one-two before, and we've managed to do that now. Unfortunately it's Gary who's always first! But hopefully we can change that at some point! I've put in a lot of training in the off-season and learnt some new dives including my big twist – and it's paying off. Even if I don't dive great, I'm still going through on 7.5s and 8s, so before it was all or nothing, but now even though I'm still not at my best I'm getting on the podium.
Orlando Duque (COL)
I'm feeling better in practice than in the competition which isn't great. It should be happening in the competition, but it's still early and hopefully I can do a little bit better as the season develops. I know I have the dives so I can make it work later on. This has been one of the best years we've had in La Rochelle. The diving is going crazy right now – there's a lot of difficulty but there's also a lot of quality. Gary [Hunt] is still the mega champion! Like I told him when he came to the podium, this is his town! I was ahead of him going into the last round, and I think if I'd have scored 10s on my last dive I might have beaten him... just. But right now he's a long way ahead of everyone, and nothing fazes him, which makes it even tougher. But it's good to have that motivation – you want to get close to him and one day beat him. It's next stop Texas and I'm determined to do well there. I was in last place there last year, so hopefully I can maintain the level that I'm diving at right now.