The sixth stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Bilbao has been won by Russia's Artem Silchenko, but Gary Hunt's second-placed finish is enough for the Brit to take back the title that he relinquished to the Russian in 2013. The rapidly-improving Kris Kolanus completed the podium for the first time in his World Series career as four rounds of 27m cliff diving delivered an unforgettable weekend in Bilbao.
Sunshine, heavy showers and a rumble or two of thunder above the already dramatic setting of Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum made for a truly spectacular event that was witnessed by the thousands of spectators who lined the Nervión River underneath La Salve Bridge.
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A passionate crowd were treated to some breathtaking three-second dives that saw the 14 athletes pitted in a series of head-to-heads as they sought diving perfection and top scores from the judges. The eight highest scoring athletes advanced to the final and Artem Silchenko, who took the lead from Gary Hunt after Round 2, was the last man up on the platform and held his nerve to finish ahead of his rival, 522.40 points to 501.80. The highlight among his four-dive repertoire was an awesome execution of a back armstand with a blind entry - one of the Russian trademark dives - that produced a 10 from the judges.
Runner-up Hunt had plenty to celebrate afterwards, securing his fourth World Series title in five seasons with a stop to go.
The World Series athletes travel next to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula for the 2014 final on October 18, with vital points still up for grabs and automatic qualification for 2015 still on the mind of at least five of the 10 permanent World Series divers.
Reaction from the top-three...
Artem Silchenko (RUS)
"My back armstand was great – I got one 10 – and I'm so happy. My power is coming back and I've worked so hard in the gym and I'm getting back to my best. I want to finish the season strongly now. Mexico is the final stop and before then I will go back to Russia and be ready for the final. The crowd was crazy and very passionate. I'm happy and I think the spectators are as well."
Gary Hunt (UK)
"I'm so happy. I've had one slip-up in Portugal but I'll forget about that. It's been a wicked year and it'll be a pleasure to dive in Mexico knowing the title is already secured. All the time I've been here I've been diving really well and then I missed my hardest dive in the second round today and I was kicking myself. When I was on the end of the platform for my last dive, I just told myself 'imagine this is the last time you'll ever get to do this dive' and I was really happy with how it went. I have won the title before, and not being on top of the podium for that event, so it's not quite perfect, but Artem's not won one this year so I'll let him have it!"
Kris Kolanus (POL)
"It's an amazing feeling to be on the podium. All my hard work and the sacrifices that I've made are being rewarded. It's the first time that I've hit all four of my dives. I got mostly 9s so I'm really happy with that. I need to work on my take-off and, who knows, I may get a 10 next competition! I started the year slowly and I did a bad dive in Ireland and it was very hard to come back after that. But now I'm full of confidence."