Mexico's Jonathan Paredes and Australian three-time champion Rhiannan Iffland were the best performers on day one of competition in Polignano a Mare on Saturday afternoon, and will begin Sunday's final rounds in the lead after two rounds of diving in Italy.
Paredes, the 2017 World Series champion, was at his stylish best as he ripped the Adriatic Sea twice to earn high scores from the judges, and will no doubt be eyeing his first victory since that title-winning performance in Chile two years ago. The Mexican didn't have a great time at the FINA High Diving World Cup in China last week, but is glad to be back in familiar surroundings:
"It's busy times," said Paredes. "Last week we were in China, it wasn't a good competition so I really wanted to come to Polignano and feel better and more calm with myself. Anyway I love the World Series events and I really always want to do my best."
Gary Hunt, the current overall men's leader, will be satisfied with his efforts from 27m and sits just three points behind Paredes, while Russian Artem Silchenko marked his first competition this season with a sensational second round dive that earned him a 10 from head judge Claudio de Miro.
Following the withdrawal of Romania's impressive Constantin Popovici with a broken foot on Friday, replacement Owen Weymouth of England also injured himself in training, resulting in a debut for Spaniard Alberto Devora.
Hunt, who was being chased hard by Popovici this season, certainly didn't revel in his rival's misfortune:
"It's a real shame Constantin is not able to compete," said the Brit. "It reminds me of the time when Orlando was winning the season and had a parachuting accident. That battle is there and you know it's going to be an exciting race and then something can happen so easily.
"It's definitely a shame, but I know that guy is going to be working hard. I'm sure he's going to be doing chin-ups until the day his cast comes off. He's not going to take a step back, he's going to work hard and come back strong."
Iffland, victorious in both of the previous stops this season, is chasing a record-breaking fourth win in a row across seasons, and not many will bet against her after such a solid opening from the 21m platform in this beautiful Puglia town. Winning here is becoming a habit for the Aussie, and another podium-topping performance on Sunday will give her a hat-trick in this spot, not that she's focusing too much on the numbers:
"I don't like to think about the records or any of these statistics until the event is over," said Iffland. "It just puts a little bit of extra pressure on. I just want to go up there and play my own game. I think I'm going to miss out on my PB, which I was hoping for coming in here, but tomorrow is a new day and two strong dives is all I'm looking for at the moment."
Just nine women took to the platforms following the withdrawal of Mexico's Adriana Jimenez due to injury.
On Sunday afternoon the athletes will return for the final two rounds, knowing that anything could happen in a place that has been drenched with drama in six previous stops over the last decade.
Click here to see the full standings after two rounds.
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