Three years ago today, on October 21st, 2017, one of the most dramatic afternoons in Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series history unfolded. Mexico's Jonathan Paredes, for so many years the 'nearly man', produced the best day's diving of his career to topple six-time champion Gary Hunt, who uncharacteristically failed his final dive of the season beside the Riñinahue Waterfalls at the foot of the Andes mountains.
In a location that was only just shaking off the last remnants of winter, the then 28-year-old Paredes came into the final stop of the season having performed consistently over the previous five competitions. Once again though, France's Gary Hunt (then representing the UK), had been the man to beat, building up a solid lead at the top of the standings heading into the Chile finale. But, unlike in the previous three seasons, where he had wrapped up the title with a stop to spare, Hunt still had work to do to fend off the challenge of the Mexican, and fellow Brit, Blake Aldridge.
"The pressure is nothing new," explained Hunt before the final dives in Lago Ranco. "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."
Paredes, meanwhile, knew that only a win would be good enough to give him a chance, and even then he would be relying on Hunt to slip up badly.
"It's been a tough season for me with my new dive," admitted Paredes at the time. "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."
Since he first arrived on the cliff diving scene back in 2011, no one had ever doubted the ability and potential of the Mexican. A flawless technique, coupled with consistently ripped entries, had earned him the nickname 'the stylemaster', and even in those early days he was tipped to be a future champion.
During the next four years he made steady progress, but things finally began to take-off in 2015, with his first-ever victory coming in Mostar that summer. He opened up the 2016 season with another win in Texas, and some strong performances earned him the overall runner-up spot behind Gary Hunt. Paredes was edging closer to his destiny.
And so to Chile for that final showdown in 2017. The 'stylemaster' was on his game right from the start, ripping his first two dives to take an overnight lead. First up on the final day was his new dive, a Forward 4 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists, which had blown hot and cold for him all season. But this time, right when he needed it, it was hotter than the sun. An absolutely magnificent dive, a huge score, and the pressure was firmly on Hunt going into the final round.
Still, the Brit only needed to finish in the top seven. All he had to do was lay his last dive down decently; get into the water and take that title home again. Whether it was the pressure that Paredes had exerted with his stunning third dive, or whether it was just one of those one-in-a-million moments, what happened next left the jaws of those watching firmly on the floor. Gary Hunt, the unstoppable cliff diving machine, performed the wrong dive. One twist too many was enough to ensure he earned zero points, and the door was left wide open for Paredes.
Meanwhile, the Mexican, who had been busy preparing himself away from the platform, knew nothing of what had just happened. He duly ripped his final dive, then emerged from the water to discover he was the new champion.
"It's unreal for me," said Paredes, "because coming here to Chile I wanted to win this competition and put some pressure on Gary, but I knew that the winner was Gary; so I was more like 'I want to keep the second overall place'. Right now I feel over the moon. Normally I cry the whole time, but today I'm still in shock. I'm so happy, a little bit sad for Gary, but that's the sport. I hope to keep this level for the years coming!"
As Paredes himself put it, "that's sport". Moments like this are few and far between in sport, but when they come around, that's when we really appreciate why we love it so much. Anything can happen, in any sport, at any time. A message for life as well as sport, 'it's never over until it's over.