Great Britain's Gary Hunt was at his brilliant best on day one of the 5th stop of the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, ripping his first dive directly off the cliff into the Mediterranean Sea, in Beirut, Lebanon, to earn two 10s from the judges and a clear lead after one round. Following a day when high waves around the Pigeon Rocks in the Raouché neighbourhood forced a schedule cut to one dive only from the cliff face, Adriana Jimenez of Mexico is the surprise leader scoring a new required dive record in the women's.
Despite the rough waters below, the 24 men and women showed no hesitation as they leaped directly from the city's most significant landmark after being zip-lined from the mainland to the actual diving location.
Taking her first lead of the season by displaying an immaculate opening dive, 34-year-old Jimenez pushed the record score for a required dive with a maximum Degree of Difficulty of 2.6 to 74.10pts. taking this high score from today's second placed Rhiannan Iffland. Heading into Sunday's final rounds, the unbeaten champion from Australia stayed ahead of surprise wildcard Iris Schmidbauer from Germany.
"It's amazingly beautiful here. It's a bit wild and wavy, but that's part of the challenge and fun; we try to adapt to the places we go to and have fun", stated the leading woman who missed her first competition of the World Series ever when she withdrew from the Italian leg due to a past hernia. "For me it's always one step at a time. I take it dive by dive. I never have expectations. I want to enjoy all my dives and the place and in the end the best result is to enjoy myself."
Over in the men's, reigning champion Hunt, well-known for his consistent and unshakable performances, couldn't have asked for a better start from the tiny take-off ledge on the visually striking limestone outcrops. "It's exactly that. It's a special place; I have never seen such beautiful rocks right in front of a city centre, so it's amazing the contrast. It's an iconic place so I'm happy we get to show off this beautiful place," the 37-time winner was in awe for the brand new location.
"I think I relied on my experience here with the rough conditions and off the rocks it's not for the faint hearted and I'm a veteran now so I've been through many different situations and I pulled out a good dive when I needed it."
7 points behind the British diving phenomenon, America's Steven LoBue sits in season best second place after round 1 with Jonathan Paredes from Mexico and the Czech Michal Navratil in a tied third place before the optional dives from the 27m platform tomorrow.
With another schedule change due to challenging waves on day 1 of the Lebanon leg, the current World Series continues to be a year of the unexpected conditions following the format change in the Irish leg and the revised schedule during the previous stop in Portugal. The final rounds from the platforms will be conducted on Sunday.
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