Jessica Macaulay and Jonathan Paredes, world-class cliff divers from Great Britain and Mexico, took the traditional Marchas Populares, an annual parade of marching groups worshipping Saint John on the Azores' main island, to the cliffs of the islet of Vila Franca do Campo. By diving through a flowered arch typical for the festivities into the Atlantic Ocean the duo kicked off a week of pure cliff diving. 24 athletes return to the volcanic rocks to not only fight for crucial championship points halfway through the 2019 season, but also celebrate and explore the tradition of their pure sport: Spread their wings and leap acrobatically from both the bare rocks and the platforms offshore from São Miguel.
It's the World Series' most classic event with 8 consecutive stops since 2012 – more than any other of the 33 venues – and this year the competition coincides with the local tradition of the Festas de São João da Vila, where more than 15 marching groups and 1000 participants march along the streets of Vila Franca do Campo, filled with lights, arcs, colours and flowers for 11 days straight.
After Macaulay and Paredes got introduced to the local dance and marching tradition, they presented their diving skills to the local community as they launched from the volcanic rocks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Both are currently in 4th place overall and will need to prove versatility if they want to stay in contention for the 2019 King Kahekili Trophy, while record-smashing Rhiannan Iffland can make history in her 21st appearance in the World Series. The 27-year-old Australian holds all the trumps to secure her 4th victory in the season's 4th event from 21m, something no other female athlete has yet achieved in this sport.
Supreme acrobatic skills will also be required in the men's to stir up the standings, with the added challenge of dealing with the open ocean. While Britain's Gary Hunt is the most successful athlete in this majestic location with three wins, the 35-year-old hasn't tasted victory in the previous two Portuguese competitions.
The stage is set for more excitement on the 'Princess Ring', as the locals call this nature reserve. Almost circular in shape but broken by a sea entrance through one section of its perimeter, the phenomenal visuals of this mid-Atlantic venue will be the backdrop not only for the sport's elite but also some fresh faces and upcoming talent at the midway point of the 2019 season.
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