Title Contenders Set for Final Battle in Chile

Title contenders
It’s all up for grabs in Lago Ranco as three men and three women target glory

A thrilling 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series reaches its conclusion in Chile this weekend and, for the first time in the history of the competition, both the men's and women's titles are still up for grabs at the final stop. A season billed as being the most unpredictable one yet has certainly lived up to its promise, with three men and three women finding themselves in a final showdown beside the Lago Ranco waterfalls to decide who will take home the coveted King Kahekili Trophy.

In the men's, four different winners in the first four stops left things wide open heading into the penultimate event in Mostar, with five divers all in contention for glory. But the old bridge and rapid Neretva River cruelly ended the challenge of Americans Andy Jones and David Colturi, leaving Brit duo Blake Aldridge and Gary Hunt in a three-way battle alongside Mexico's Jonathan Paredes.

For Hunt, winner of two stops this season, it's somewhat unfamiliar territory he's entering. In the past three seasons, the six-time overall champion and current leader has had the World Series wrapped up with at least one event to spare, but the prospect of the title going down to the final dive this year doesn't worry the 33-year-old:

"The pressure is nothing new," says Hunt. "Back in 2012, the battle with Orlando came down to one dive, so it's something I have experience of. I've also often dived well under a lot of pressure, so I'm confident here."

Fellow Englishman, Blake Aldridge, recently scored his first victory in four years at Hell's Gate in Texas and is enjoying the best season of his career. Although the former Olympian has a 150 point gap to make up on Hunt, nothing can be ruled out with four dives still to go:

"My aim here is to get a good event off and see what happens," says 35-year-old Aldridge. "I need to win and hope Gary maybe finishes a little lower down. I finished fourth a couple of years ago so if I make it into the top two or three overall then I'll be a happy man, but to even have a chance of winning the title is a great feeling and it would be a dream come true if I won it."

A brilliant win in Texas catapulted Blake Aldridge into the men's title fight alongside Gary Hunt and Jonathan Paredes. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool. 

Paredes' season took a little time to flourish as he got to grips with his new, more difficult dive, but a second-place finish in Texas moved the 28-year-old into contention. To take home the title though, he knows this is a must-win event:

"It's been a tough season for me with my new dive," admits Paredes. "Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but I'm happy because overall I think I had a good competition at every stop. In Bosnia I let Gary go a little bit away from me in the points, but I really hope to win this one."

In the women's, an injury to defending champion Rhiannan Iffland in Mostar opened up the door for fellow Australian Helena Merten and Mexico's Adriana Jimenez, and with only 80 points now separating them, the stage is set for a tight and exciting final battle.

Iffland, seemingly cruising to her second title in as many seasons after three wins in four stops, was stopped in her tracks by a knee injury at Stari Most, but a five-week break before the final may have just saved her chances of retaining the title:

"I strained both my ACL ligaments in Mostar," explains Iffland. "Since then, I've just been pushing little by little and training to get back to normal. In the last five days I've started diving again, so I'm going in confident and hopefully a little mind over matter will get me a positive result."

Jimenez, who soared to a first-ever victory in the Portuguese Azores earlier this season, is hot on the heels of Iffland and looking forward to the final showdown:

"I feel excited," says Jimenez. "I just have to think about one dive at a time and enjoy it. I've never been in this position during my career and I'm so proud of myself."

Consistency has been the key to Helena Merten's title challenge this season. Photo: Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool.

The final contender, Merten, has been the epitome of consistency all season. Two second-place finishes and one third place mean the youngest of the permanent women now has the opportunity to seize the title from her Aussie compatriot.

"I can't believe it really," says the 22-year-old. "I had a bit of a rough start, so to be in contention is unbelievable. I'll try and ignore the tough conditions and just do the same as I've done all season.

Though Hunt and Iffland lead, and both remain the favourites to return home once more with the trophy, there is no telling what the pressures, nerves and excitement of a final day showdown can do, not to mention the cold weather and bone-chilling water temperatures in a location that is only just shaking off the last remnants of winter.

It's all up for grabs in the final showdown of this most unpredictable season, and with so many possible scenarios on the table, one or two brand new champions could well be crowned beside the beautiful Chile waterfalls.

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.

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