Australia's Helena Merten cruised into the lead in difficult conditions on day one of competition at the final stop of the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Lago Ranco, Chile, and in doing so turned up the heat in the title race on her compatriot and defending champion Rhiannan Iffland. Wildcard Yana Nestsiarava of Belarus sits in second place overnight, while Iffland completes the top three after two rounds of action. In the men's, severe conditions forced the postponement of their first two dives, meaning they will now need to complete four rounds on Saturday.
Merten, who arrived at the final stop in third place in the overall standings, boosted her title aspirations as she delivered a brilliant first round dive, then followed it up with a solid second to grab the lead as her closest rivals struggled in the cold and wet conditions next to the crashing Riñinahue Waterfalls at the foot of the Andes mountains.
"It was cold today," said 22-year-old Merten, "but I'm happy with my dives and hopefully tomorrow I can do exactly the same. I had a bit of a rough start to the season, so just to be in contention for the title is unbelievable."
Iffland, who is returning from a knee injury sustained at the last stop in Mostar, opted not to train from the women's 21m platform in order to minimize the stress on her body, and it certainly showed as the 26-year-old failed to display her usual acrobatic brilliance. As it stands though, if the same order is maintained after Saturday's final rounds then she will retain the title by ten points from Merten.
"I didn't do any training dives," said Iffland, "so I've just found out how tough it actually is here. Four solid, safe dives was my goal for the competition and that's still the plan."
Adriana Jimenez, currently second in the overall standings just 60 points behind Iffland, powered into an early lead after impressing the judges with her first dive, but could only score fives for her second effort and dropped back to fourth. With two rounds to go though, it's all still up for grabs in the women's title fight. Unfortunately for Ginger Huber, there will be no final dives after the American was forced to pull out due to injury.
Due to severe conditions following the women's first rounds, the decision was taken by the sports committee to postpone the men's action until Saturday, when all four rounds will be completed along with the women's final two dives.
Women's standings after Round 2:
1- Helena Merten (AUS) – 144.30pts
2- Yana Nestsiarava (W) (BLR) – 140.70
3- Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) – 129.90
4- Adriana Jimenez (MEX) – 122.20
5- Anna Bader (W) (GER) – 104.60
6- Cesilie Carlton (USA) – 99.30
7- Jacqueline Valente (W) (BRA) – 95.90
Watch Live from Lago Ranco
This event will be LIVE on October 21 from 15.15 local time (18.15 GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV and Facebook. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. Find out more at about.redbull.tv
If you miss the event or simply want to watch all the action again, the replay will be available on demand a few minutes after the event.