There are very rarely any certainties in sport, but for many years it has been difficult to look much further than Gary Hunt when making predictions for the men's title in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. But after a thrilling 2017 season, in which the overall lead changed hands multiple times and Jonathan Paredes finally fulfilled his destiny to snatch the King Kahekili trophy from Hunt, expectations are high that another tight and exciting title fight is in store this summer. With the new season just a few weeks away, here's a look at the top five contenders for the crown in 2018.
The 25-year-old Italian had been making steady progress as a wildcard over the last few years, but in 2017 De Rose soared to new heights with a sensational victory on home soil in Polignano a Mare. It was the first time a wildcard had ever won a World Series event. Another couple of solid performances and a podium finish at the season finale in Chile saw him finish fourth overall, catapulting him onto the permanent diver list for 2018. After such a flourishing breakthrough season, De Rose will be quietly confident that he can step up another level and push for the title, especially with the added incentive that this year's finale will be taking place in Polignano a Mare.
- 2017 - Winner Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Polignano a Mare, Italy (wildcard)
- 2017 - 3rd FINA High Diving World Championships
- Multi medallist in national competitions
After signing off the 2016 season with a brilliant win under the lights in Dubai and achieving his highest overall ranking of third, 33-year-old Jones kicked off 2017 with his sights firmly set on a push for the title. And, entering the penultimate stop in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the American was nicely positioned in fifth place, just 70 points off the lead. But a surprising failed dive in the second round saw him finish in last place, instantly ending his title aspirations. This season, the master of aerial awareness, who combines his height and free-running passion to produce a unique form in the air, will be looking to exorcise the demons of that stop and is once again one of the favourites to challenge for the crown.
- 2016 - 1st Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Dubai (UAE)
- 2007 - University of Utah 'Diver of the Year'
35-year-old Aldridge has had to deal with a fair amount of injuries and setbacks in his career, but the former Olympian has a competitive streak in him that knows no bounds. This mentality was no doubt the driving force behind a brilliant 2017 season, where he secured a British 1-2 behind Gary Hunt at the first stop in Ireland, took his second career win in the World Series in Texas, and capped off his best season ever with a sound third place overall. Aldridge will again be giving his all in 2018, and if he displays the same kind of form as last year then the keen fisherman could well land the biggest prize of all - the King Kahekili trophy.
- 3 times world medallist
- Former world champion
- 2017 - Winner Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Texas (USA)
- 2014 - Winner Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Havana (CUB)
- 2013 - 1st Marmeeting Furore (ITA)
- 2009, 2010 & 2011 - European cliff diving champion
- 2008 - Olympic finalist
Ever since his first World Series appearance back in 2011, 28-year-old Paredes has proved to be one of the most technically proficient and immaculate cliff divers. Last season, after years of excelling at simpler dives, the Mexican armed himself with a brand new and much more difficult dive - a Forward 4 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists. It took some mastering during the first few stops, but once he got to grips with it there was no stopping him, and his steady progress throughout the season led him to a title showdown with Gary Hunt in Chile. He seized his chance in sensational fashion, capitalising on Hunt's mistake and giving the best performance of his career to secure a first King Kahekili trophy. Paredes finally fulfilled his destiny and is now aiming to take over from Hunt as man to beat.
- 2017 - Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Champion
- 2016 - 2nd FINA High Diving World Cup
- 2015 - 1st Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Mostar (BIH)
- 2015 - 2nd FINA High Diving World Championship
The six-time champion may have been dethroned last season, but despite the growing level of competition and the extra threat that Jonathan Paredes now possesses, he is still widely regarded as the number one contender for the title. The 'brilliant Brit' has a passion for continually improving himself, and the manner in which he lost his crown in Chile will certainly spur the 33-year-old on in 2018. The startling stats show that Hunt has 30 wins and 54 podiums in 65 starts, and this truly gifted athlete will be aiming to add more to the list as he attempts to reclaim the King Kahekili trophy this year.
- 6-time winner Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series
- Winner of 30 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series competitions to date
- 2016 - winner FINA High Diving World Cup
- 2015 - FINA High Diving World Champion
- 2006 - 3rd Commonwealth Games 10m Synchro
There are, of course, five other permanent divers who will also have a say in this year's title fight. Americans David Colturi and Steven LoBue are both more than capable of putting everything together to challenge at the top, while Michal Navratil (CZE) and Kris Kolanus (POL) have both shown quality in previous seasons, if not consistency. Orlando Duque, the Colombian cliff diving legend, led the standings at one point last season and despite turning 44 this year, he still clearly has what it takes to compete at the top level.