Reigning champion Gary Hunt picked up where he left off last year with another dominant display of 27-metre cliff diving in the first Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series event of 2015 at Cartagena's Centro de Convenciones in Colombia.
The UK athlete, a four-time World Series champion who celebrated his 20th victory in 43 World Series competitions on Saturday, scored 526.20 points from his four dives and finished ahead of second-placed David Colturi (493.80pts) and crowd favourite Orlando Duque (477.60pts) who came third in front of 30,000 spectators.
"I'm ecstatic!" said Hunt, immediately after winning. "I tried to take it dive-by-dive, but I wanted to dive last and that's why I put my triple quad as my first optional and it worked out great. It was tough diving straight after Orlando! The crowd went absolutely wild for him, but that's to expected because he's the hero here. It's great for me that I managed to out-dive him. I'm happy that I managed to deal with the nerves and because of my training I felt strong and confident up there. I felt confident going into the final round because of my lead, but I've been in that position and not won, so I told myself not to relax because there was still work to do!"
Whether Hunt was the star of the show in Cartagena was debatable, however, as the reception afforded Duque in his first World Series event on home soil was something special. Duque, whose third-placed finish was his best start to a World Series season for three years, insisted that he remained focused on the competition, but that the huge vocal support and the cheers that accompanied his announcement on the platform was a fantastic feeling.
"It felt great walking down the end of the platform," said the 40-year-old. "I felt like a rock star! Everybody's cheering and clapping, and I'm having fun. The walk down the platform to the edge and seeing the people... it's just awesome, fantastic! As fun as it is, though, it's still competition for me. Once I'm at the end of the platform, I'm good to go. I finished third, but it could have been more because my practice was better. But it's a good start, I'm on the podium and I'm up there at the start. I'm doing dives well in training so I'm confident that I can do well. I feel it's going to be a good season for me."
David Colturi's score of 493.80 points represented a new personal best for the US diver and, after his best programme of dives to date, the Los Angeles-based athlete is targeting a tilt at Hunt's World Series title.
"It was a really good off-season for me – I've been training really hard, and I finally feel like things are coming together. Everyone's pushing the limit and this was the first of many amazing stops for the World Series. I've never put together a list of dives like I did today – and it's a new personal best for me. Last year was up and down, but this year I feel like I'm in the mix at the top. I've had three fifth-placed finishes in the World Series which is okay, but I feel that this will be my breakout year."
From the Caribbean, the World Series athletes travel next to France's La Rochelle for the second stop of 2015.