American Steven LoBue spun his way to a stunning victory at the second stop of the 2018 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Bilbao, Spain, earning top spot on the podium for the first time since his win in the very same location back in 2015. He was joined in the celebrations by reigning champion Jonathan Paredes of Mexico, who grabbed a much needed second place following a poor start in Texas.
LoBue's fellow American David Colturi, who currently possesses the hardest dive, finished third. Six-time World Series champion Gary Hunt of England missed out on the podium for the third successive event; his longest run ever without a top three finish. 25,000 fans turned out to watch as the men displayed their art from 27m in rainy conditions beside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
After no victory in 16 competitions, the FINA world champion displayed the best performance of his forward 5 somersaults with ½ twist ever to score the highest note in an optional dive (135.15pts) and repeat his winning feat in the American's new favourite location. Paredes also earned a new record score for an intermediate dive (100.80pts), which powered him into an early lead after two rounds, while record winner Hunt, who clearly still feels the handicap of his twisting mental block, had to lower his diving programme once more to land him in a mediocre 10th place in the Basque city.
"It's awesome to repeat it in this location," said LoBue. "I had a great week of training leading up to this and the crowd pushed through the dodgy weather. It's fantastic for the sport that so many people are capable of winning at any given point. We had a lot of great dives here today; especially with the weather it's showing how mentally mature a lot of these guys are, really battling through those conditions. Super excited to come out on top."
With today's win, the 33-year-old 'spin master' from Florida also took the overall World Series lead ahead of Czech's Michal Navratil and Blake Aldridge from Great Britain after two of seven competitions in the World Series' anniversary season. Defending champion Paredes makes up five ranks and sits in 5th place now, while his main contender from previous years, the 'brilliant Brit' Hunt, lingers in 11th position, one spot behind Colombian veteran Orlando Duque.
"This is what I wanted," said Paredes. "I came to Bilbao with the plan to finish well. Bilbao is a very special place for me and after the bad result in Texas, I could show what I can do. It was a good fight with Steven and David and finally I placed 2nd. A good result here motivates me for the rest of the Series. Portugal is a special place with diving from the cliffs and it's been good to me, so I know I can repeat that."
From the place where cliff diving is art and La Salve Bridge with thousands of enthusiastic fans along the river, the cliff diving elite travels on to the remote and pure islands of the Portuguese Azores. The top 24 athletes, men and women, will be back on the cliff-face to continue their fight for the 2018 King Kahekili trophy in two weeks' time.
1- Steven LoBue USA - 416.15pts
2- Jonathan Paredes MEX - 405.55
3- David Colturi USA - 390.90
4- Blake Aldridge GBR - 382.40
5- Michal Navratil CZE - 378.70
6- Alessandro De Rose ITA - 366.40
7- Orlando Duque COL - 362.60
8- Andy Jones USA - 358.70
9- Carlos Gimeno (W) ESP - 349.20
10- Gary Hunt GBR - 347.25
11- Kris Kolanus POL - 277.75
12- Alain Kohl (W) LUX - 275.55
13- Oleksiy Prygorov (W) UKR – 263.00
14- Artem Silchenko (W) RUS – 203.00
Watch the Bilbao Replay
Relive the action on demand at www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV, Facebook, Youtube, & 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.