The penultimate stop of the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series takes place this weekend in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and a higher number of wildcards than usual will be taking part. The withdrawal of Adriana Jimenez and Kris Kolanus means that 10 instead of 8 invitees will now get the chance to display their skills in a location that has been very kind to them in previous years.
It was back in 2015 that the World Series first landed in this beautiful and historic spot, and four stops so far have yielded six podium places for non-permanent divers. That's a significant amount, and to put it in perspective there were only four occasions in the whole of last season when a wildcard pushed themselves into the top three. Maybe it's just coincidence, or maybe there's something magical in the cold water of the Neretva River, but this stop has certainly proved a happy hunting ground for wildcards.
"Mostar is a great memory for me," says Romania's Catalin Preda, recalling his stunning debut here a year ago. "Making it onto the podium wasn't my objective, but it was a really nice surprise. I wanted to try a new dive, which I executed well, and it was this dive which bumped me up to third place."
'Executed well' is somewhat of an understatement from the 28-year-old. In fact, his back quad with two twists was one of the highest scoring single dives in World Series history, and it's something he's hoping to repeat this weekend: "I'll be doing that same dive as last year again, and hopefully it will be as good or even better than last season. I also have another complex new dive that I'll be trying here this weekend."
Preda's performance came one year after another eye-catching debut, when Russia's Nikita Fedotov lit up Stari Most with a magnificent final dive to snatch third place ahead of his vastly more experienced rivals, while other wildcards who have made the podium over the years include the likes of Rhiannan Iffland, Jessica Macaulay and Anna Bader.
For Mexico's Sergio Guzman, who became the first-ever wildcard to earn a podium spot here in 2015, Mostar has both given and taken from him in equal measure. Just two years after that joyous moment, the cliff diving world held its breath when the 28-year-old crashed into the river and had to be plucked unconscious from below the surface.
"I have two different experiences here in Mostar," says Guzman. "The first one was awesome, because it was one of my first competitions in the World Series and my first podium. I feel super happy thinking about it. Two years later I had the accident.
"For me it was complicated because we had the next competition coming up. In the beginning it was super hard. I needed to tell myself that I had to do the dive again because if I didn't, I could retire. So I did it again and now I feel super happy because the people here are very supportive and make me feel like a hero. I try to come here with a clean mind and just do my dives, and my goal is to finish on the podium again."
Wildcards in Mostar: Fast Facts
- 10 wildcards in the line-up for the event in 2019 – 5 men, 5 women
- 2 already made the podium this year – Maria Paula Quintero and Catalin Preda
- There were a record 5 World Series first timers in Mostar in 2018
- 5 wildcards make their Mostar debut this weekend - Kolesnikov, Valente, Vyshyvanova, Quintero, Bradley
- 6 wildcards made the podium in Mostar: 2015 - Guzman, 2016 - Iffland, 2017 - Fedotov/Bader, 2018 - Preda/Macaulay
Colombia's Maria Paula Quintero is one of the invitees who will be competing in Mostar for the first time this weekend. The 19-year-old became the youngest ever athlete to make the podium earlier this season in Polignano a Mare, and she's hoping to add her name to the Mostar hall of fame too.
"I've never dived from a platform built on a bridge like this before," says Quintero. "It's a beautiful place here with such a great history, and hopefully I can perform like I did in Italy and make it onto the podium again."
Jessica Macaulay of the UK made the podium as a wildcard here last season, a result which helped earn her a permanent place this year, and she has some helpful advice for those women looking to follow in her footsteps:
"Persistence is key right now if you're a wildcard,' says the Brit. "It's quite open in the women's at the moment, so keep training and you'll definitely get enough opportunities to prove yourself."
One possible explanation for the success of wildcards in this location may be that every season it's been held near the end of the cliff diving calendar. For the past three years it has been the penultimate stop, and possibly the perfect time for the invitees to capitalise on the tired bodies of their permanent rivals after a long and taxing season. Whatever the reason, 10 of them will be doing their very best this weekend and hoping the magic of Mostar will help lift them onto the podium.
Watch Live from Mostar
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.