This weekend, at the final stop of the season in Bilbao, Orlando Duque calls time on his illustrious high-diving career. A pioneer of the sport, the Colombian was the discipline's first ever FINA world champion back in 2013 and has been a mainstay of the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series since its inception in 2009, when he was the inaugural champion.
As the 45-year-old leaps off the 27m diving platform one last time this weekend at the series finale in Spain, we take a look back at a glittering career at the cutting edge of his sport.
1974: Duque is born in Cali, Colombia on September 11.
1986: Takes up diving for the first time.
1992: A natural off the diving board, he qualifies for the Olympic Games in Barcelona but is not sent because of a lack of money at the Colombian Olympic Federation, so he stops diving and goes to study at university instead.
1995: He takes to the heights for the first time at a high-diving event in his home city complete with his trademark ponytail, grown after the end of military service.
1997: Officially begins his career in cliff diving while working at a Colombian amusement park. In the European summer, he heads to Austria to jump from a 25-metre ladder into what he calls an "ashtray" sized pool while working as a barman in the country come the winter.
2000: 'The Duke', as he becomes affectionately known, dominates the World High Diving Federation World Championships in Hawaii beating American rivals Dustin Webster and Todd Michael thanks, in part, to 10s across the board from the seven judges in a perfect dive that is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
2001-2002: He turns into the dominant force of his sport, losing just one competition over the course of two years in the World Championship series.
2006: Duque hits the big screen, the semi-autobiographical film '9 Dives' in conjunction with Austrian producer Mario Kreuzer premiering in April that year in Bogota, Colombia. It is also launched at Austrian IMAX and Venezuelan cinemas.
2009: The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is born and Duque is crowned its first champion, edging out Britain's Gary Hunt in a tight finish.
2011: A skydiving trip to mark the end of another season goes wrong as he suffers foot and leg injuries, casting doubts over his career as a result.
2012: Returning from a lengthy lay-off, he takes victory in his comeback event in Corsica a year and a month since last competing. He comes up just short in winning a second series title pushing Hunt to the season finale but eventually loses out by 20 points.
2013: High diving is added to FINA's calendar at the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona and trailblazer Duque is its first champion for what is also Colombia's first ever medal at the championships. That same year, he dives from a helicopter next to the Statue of Liberty in New York.
2017: Four years and 27 competitions since his last victory, the now elder statesman of his sport picks up another win in the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series. That same year, he is appointed to both the FINA athletes committee and the FINA technical high diving committee.
2018: Duque pulls off his latest dive for the cameras when he realises a dream by performing an eye-catching dive from an iceberg in Antarctica's waters.
2019: At the age of 45, he takes to the high-diving platform for the last time in an illustrious career for the 2019 series finale in Bilbao, Spain.
A World Series career in numbers
- 9 wins
- 34 podiums
- 5 World Series overall podiums (1st: 2009; 2nd: 2010, 2012, 2015; 3rd: 2013)
- 1 World Series title (2009)
- 67 starts, 15 2nd places – a record!
- 10 3rd places
- First win: Rotterdam, Netherlands 2009
- Last win: Azores, Portugal 2017
- Most podiums in one location: 4 podiums in Azores (2, 2, 2, 1)
- 27 events between wins – a record! (Boston 2013 – Azores 2017)
- 10 consecutive seasons
- 8 consecutive podiums (2010-2011)
- 3 consecutive wins (2009)
- 2nd oldest diver to win an event – 42 years, 301 days, Azores 2017
Orlando Duque in his own words
On his best moments: "Winning the world title in 2001. We are talking 20 years ago and already winning a world title. The seven judges gave me 10 in one of my dives so that is probably one of the proudest moments of my career. Later on, breaking my leg and then coming back the following year fighting for the title, that made me really proud. That was pretty good too."
On his toughest moments: "The injury was the most difficult moment because it was a very severe injury and my doctor wasn't sure if I'd be able to compete again. I knew that process was going to be hard. I went to Corsica and won there. I couldn't have dreamed of that. After that, my mindset changed a little bit more because I knew I was back. I was in the game again and it was a great season."
On retirement: "I've been stopping my career since 2007. I started saying it was about time, but things continued changing in the sport. Bilbao is going to be my last competition and I think it's a good moment. I've had a few injuries in the past that stopped me a little bit from having a full season so it's time to put it aside. Four years ago with my wife we decided 2019 was going to be the year no matter what happens. I stayed in the sport because I felt there were still things I could do, now I've done pretty much what I wanted to. I walk away without any regrets."
On unfinished business: "One of the things we never got to do is compete in the Olympics. But I'm going to be pushing as hard to make sure high diving goes into the Olympics and all these guys are going to be competing there. I might not be competing but I'm sure going to be there...watching some of my friends winning a medal."
On the future: "I'm stopping competition...but I'm going to continue diving. I have so many things I want to do, there are endless cliffs around the world I have to explore still and there are lots of projects I still have in my mind. Stopping competition is going to open that up a little bit more. Also, I'm in the athletes committee of the international federation, I'm in the high diving committee, so I'll be pushing every step to make sure this sport makes it to the Olympics.
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