Rhiannan Iffland produced a seismic moment from the volcanic rocks of the Portuguese Azores on Friday, executing a perfect dive direct from the cliffs to pick up only the second ever score of 10 awarded in the women's competition. The dive propelled the Australian into first place in the standings after two rounds, ahead of Brit Jessica Macaulay in second and Ginger Huber of the USA in third.
Poland's Kris Kolanus leads the way in the men's on a day where the athletes had to prove their versatility with two pure cliff dives into the swaying Atlantic Ocean. American Steven Lobue sits in second place, with Mexico's Jonathan Paredes in third ahead of Saturday's final rounds.
Having missed out on a podium place for only the second time at the season opener in Texas, Iffland bounced back in the style befitting of a two-time World Series champion. A delightful first dive from the cliff face edged her into the lead after round one, but it was from the fabled 'Snakehead' that the Aussie produced the most memorable dive of her career to date; a Forward 2 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists that pierced like an arrow into the mid-Atlantic waves and prompted one of the judges to flash the coveted 10 scorecard.
Huber had previously held the record for being the only woman ever to be awarded the top note from the judges, a feat which coincidentally was also achieved from the exact same area of rock two years ago. Including the men, the top score has now been awarded a total of 99 times since the World Series began in 2009.
"I felt less pressure than usual," said 26-year-old Iffland. "Coming into this event in 4th place means I don't have that target on my back. Today I just tried to come in with a different approach to Texas. I was a bit stressed there and got off to a shaky start, so here I wanted to step up to the cliffs, feel free, and have a good time.
"I felt that I had a really good take-off, and when I popped my head up I was happy to see a few nines. Then I panned my eyes over and saw the 10. A new dive yesterday, a 10 today. Regardless of the result tomorrow I'm going to walk away from here stoked."
Kolanus could only follow up his maiden victory in Texas with a lowly 11th place in Bilbao two weeks ago, but the Pole was back to his brilliant best on the rocks here. A pair of immaculate dives earned him a series of 9s and 9.5s, but the 31-year-old Pole knows that everything will be decided in Saturday's more difficult dives from the platforms.
"If I'm in the lead, it means I have more points, so yes it's good for me," said Kolanus. "Tomorrow though we'll be back on the platform for the more difficult dives, so let's see what happens."
The competition will resume on Saturday without one of last year's winners in this location, Orlando Duque, after the Colombian injured his toe before he even had the chance to dive. Mexico's Adriana Jimenez, victorious here 12 months ago and also at the Texas opener in June, will begin the final two rounds in fourth place.
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on July 14 at 12.30 PM GMT on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV, Facebook, Youtube and Twitch. 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.