Australia's Rhiannan Iffland returned to winning ways in record fashion at the third stop of the 2018 World Series in the Azores, Portugal, blowing her rivals away with the highest-ever total score in the women's competition. The two-time and reigning women's champion also scored a perfect 10 direct from the rocks on her way to victory, while her winning dive was the most difficult ever attempted by a woman. Mexico's Adriana Jimenez finished second, with Canadian Lysanne Richard in third.
In the men's, a fascinating final saw Steven LoBue sneak past his fellow American David Colturi, who had earlier posted the highest score for an individual men's dive, with the final dive of the day to secure his second victory in a row. Cheered on by 1,000 spectators on boats and kayaks, former champion Gary Hunt of England completed the top three with a much-needed first podium of the season.
It was Hunt's signature 'triple quad' that propelled the winner of 30 competitions back into the top three, after he had to deal with a mental block in his twisting dives at the start of this season. The increase in confidence evident at the third event of the year was also felt by 29-year-old Colturi, who currently holds the record for the hardest cliff dive, a Reverse 2 Somersaults with 5 Twists. With 9s from the judges, he not only stepped a spot higher on the podium after his 3rd place from Spain two weeks earlier, but also made it an American double with his long-term friend LoBue.
"It's super amazing obviously any time you can come away with a podium," said LoBue. "This location is especially challenging and everybody manages to step up their game. David put down a heck of a gainer twist, Gary Hunt is back, he's doing his big twist again and so, any time you can come away with a win in that scenario it's extra special."
The 33-year-old from Florida made it five individual wins from 27m today, repeating his volcanic triumph from 2014 to now clearly lead the overall standings ahead of Michal Navratil, today's fourth-placed Czech, and record man Colturi.
Almost halfway into the season reigning champion Jonathan Paredes from Mexico sits in 5th overall after a disappointing 6th place from the rocks, and six-time champion Hunt makes up three positions to an overall 8. Last year's winner here, Orlando Duque (COL), was unable to take part due to a toe and finger injury sustained while warming up for competition on Friday.
It was also a record-breaking event in the women's as 26-year-old Iffland produced a seismic moment from the volcanic rocks of the Portuguese Azores, executing a perfect dive direct from the cliffs to pick up only the second ever score of 10 awarded in the women's competition. The most memorable dive of her career to date, a Forward 2 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists, that pierced like an arrow into the mid-Atlantic waves, is now also the best score ever for a required dive in the female category (71.50pts).
Having missed out on a podium place for only the second time at the season opener in Texas, the Australian bounced back in the style befitting of a two-time World Series champion. In the lead after round one, the Aussie won all rounds from 21m and finished the purest of all stops with the highest scoring competition to date.
"It was a bit disappointing the first competition in Texas," said Iffland. "I was a little bit shaky, but it kind of motivated me and drove me to push myself for this new dive, which I just completed in the competition and which I'm over the moon about. I'm super happy to be standing back on top of the podium for this competition but it's just time to keep pushing and enjoying the rest of the Series."
Portugal runner-up Jimenez still leads the overall standings in the women's, with Iffland now in 2nd and surprise wildcard Jessica Macaulay from Great Britain in a fantastic overall third after finishing 5th in the Azores archipelago and becoming the best invitee once again.
From the World Series' most pure and remote venue in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the cliff diving elite returns to picturesque Sisikon in the Swiss Alps, where the women will dive for the first time into Lake Lucerne in two-weeks' time.
1- Steven LoBue USA - 405.35pts
2- David Colturi USA – 404.80
3- Gary Hunt GBR - 400.20
4- Michal Navratil CZE – 369.55
5- Kris Kolanus POL - 360.55
6- Jonathan Paredes MEX - 358.20
7- Andy Jones USA – 357.85
8- Nikita Fedotov (W) RUS – 292.15
9- Slavik Kolesnikov (W) UKR - 287.80
10- Viktar Maslouski (W) BLR – 280.55
11- Sergio Guzman (W) MEX – 229.05
12- Blake Aldridge GBR – 221.70
13- Alessandro De Rose ITA - 189.85
14- Orlando Duque COL – DNS
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 324.95pts
2- Adriana Jimenez MEX – 294.30
3- Lysanne Richard CAN – 285.80
4- Yana Nestsiarava BLR – 281.30
5- Jessica Macaulay (W) GBR – 280.30
6- Ginger Huber USA – 255.80
7- Anna Bader GER – 252.40
8- Antonina Vyshyvanova (W) UKR – 248.00
9- Jacqueline Valente (W) BRA – 241.10
10- Eleanor Townsend Smart (W) USA – 172.90
Watch the Azores Replay
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