Rhiannan Iffland may have won four Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series titles in as many years, but there's not much rest for the super-talented Australian during the off-season. Whether it's training, surfing or traveling, the 28-year-old keeps herself fit and busy all year round. We caught up with her recently in Brisbane, where she took some time out to talk about the off-season, reminisce over a record-breaking 2019 and reveal her excitement for the dawn of a new era of equality in cliff diving.
What does the off-season look like for you?
The off-season is also the summer season for me, which is very nice. I kind of have an endless summer. I really enjoy coming home and training here and, actually, I prefer to train in the warm weather, and I like to train outdoors as well so that's one nice thing.
How important is the off-season?
It is very important. It's when all the work is put in. Also, I think it's a time for me which is very important to unwind with the family and then recharge mentally. Diving for 20 years, the skills are coming back with putting the hard work in but keeping that mental focus is what drains me the most. So, I think it's really important to take down-time and to enjoy the training and the surroundings in Australia being at home.
And you love to surf, right?
Of course, I always have time for surfing. Obviously, I try to fit it in within my training schedule, but I think it's really important for me to keep surfing and keep doing what I love so things don't get boring.
It's good to see girls surfing...
Australian girls, yeah...I would encourage every Australian girl to surf. That would be amazing if there were more girls out surfing than boys. That's something that I wish to say one day.
2019...wow, what a season! How did you go undefeated a whole year?
I don't know why, but I always have a sense of how the competitions go before I even step on the platform. As the season went on and I kept having good results and good dives, I think I learned how to switch my mind into that mode and be ready and to dive consistently. But it wasn't until Bosnia, the penultimate stop, I realized that it was actually in my reach to have an undefeated season.
I already won the World Series title so that was kind of something that gave me motivation to dive really well in Spain, knowing that I could go undefeated and that I could be the first diver in history to take out a whole series, take a clean sweep. But honestly, I really tried not to think about it because I don't like to have all those extra pressures. At the end of the day it's another competition, I am there to dive, I am there doing my best and to enjoy it. I just tried to put that in my back pocket and dive like normal.
Will you be hunting your own records in 2020?
Some people my say I am hunting myself, but for me competition is always competing with myself. I can't beat anyone else if I don't beat myself first. That's a really tough position to be in honestly. But, yeah, I do have my records. I do want to beat them and I do want to set the bar higher for myself but at the same time I know that a lot of my success comes from the fact that I enjoy the sport so much and that I am so passionate about it and everything that comes with it.
But in saying that, every year and every competition is a new competition. Last year I was the best but next year maybe I could have a bad season or somebody else comes up with something else, so I'll be hunting somebody else next year. Sport is like that, it's a mental game and it's how it goes. Either way it's going to be a "win-win" for me but obviously I am going for that 5th World title - that would be something very, very special.
How special will it be diving in front of your home fans at the season finale in 2020?
I really cannot express how excited I am, I can't put it into words at the moment. It's going to be amazing. It's an hour from my home and I already have friends and family saying, "we can't wait to come and cheer you on" and I can't wait to showcase our sport in Sydney and to Australia. That's going to motivate me throughout the whole season.
I think this event in Sydney will be the pinnacle of my career so far. So, my main goal will be to be standing on top of the podium in front of my friends and family.
So how is the off-season training going?
At the moment it's still just seeing where I am at. I don't want to be peaking right now in top physical shape. We are starting off with light weights and focusing a lot on technique in the pool. And then as the weeks go by, we are stepping it up and then juggling both the diving and the heavy weight sessions in the gym.
Do you have any weaknesses you feel you need to improve on?
I am always working on my take-offs. I know it, I am going to say it honestly, it's my weakness. We are trying to focus a little bit more on having more explosive power incorporated into the program. Focusing on doing a lot of dynamic exercises basically.
Does training in the off-season come naturally to you?
You need a high self-motivation. I think I began diving when I was 9 or 10, so it's kind of like second nature to me the training. It does get harder and some days you don't have as much motivation as other days but that just how it is with anything in life. For instance, some of the dives in the pool I might say to my partner Todor "I don't feel like it today. I don't really like this dive" and that's one thing I want to change in my mentality and to help me keep motivated is to actually take those challenges and face them as they come.
You also do trampoline training?
I am always in the dry gym. It's good to mix it up as well and just to trick your mind a little bit. It's easier to get repetitions in the gym on the trampoline for me. It's just doing that back somersault with 1.5 twists over and over again so that I feel more confident and comfortable once I get up to the platform and it'll be just second nature and muscle memory will take over.
Your partner Todor is also your coach. Does that work well?
For me, a good coach is all about support when it comes to high diving. I trust him and I know that he is experienced, and I really trust his judgement on what I am doing. I think the most important thing for me is stepping up on that platform, if I look over to him, I know what he is thinking and it's just this connection where he makes me feel comfortable and basically we've done the work together.
What do you think about the new competition format in 2020?
I think it's a really good step in the right direction. Adding a 3.4 intermediate dive means we have an equal format to the men, with slightly different DD's, and if we want to keep pushing our sport further it's a crucial step to make. I am really excited to see how the scores change and how all the women deal with it as well.
Speaking of equality, how does it feel knowing that the prize money will now be equal for men and women?
This is beyond amazing. We have seen other sports going that direction where they have closed the pay-gap between men and women. For us to introduce that this year is so exciting, and it feels so empowering already to be a woman in an extreme sport and now to be equal with the men is something very, very fantastic. The first winner to take out that equal prize money in Bali - it's going to be a special feeling for whoever that is. It's such a step in the right direction.
For me it's not about the money, it's about having that recognition and having the same exposure and feeling just as powerful as the men.
Does it feel like a new era of cliff diving is upon us?
It's like with any sport. There are always going to be people progressing, there are always athletes that are pushing the sport further. It's come a long way already. The highest DD in the first year the women were diving I think was 3.4 and now we are up to 4.3. Let's see, this year maybe it will even be pushed a fraction higher.
Maybe we'll see the sport going to the Olympics one day and hopefully I am still diving; that would be lovely. I think everybody is excited about where this sport is going.