Mexico's Jonathan Paredes powered into an early lead at the second stop of the 2018 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Bilbao on Friday, delivering two of his trademark immaculate dives to move ahead of Czech Rebublic's Michal Navratil in second and American David Colturi in third. Six-time World Series champion, Gary Hunt, struggled into 11th place in the overnight standings.
Reigning champion Paredes, being a resident of Madrid, is competing on his adopted home soil this weekend and a raucous crowd greeted his appearance on top of the 27m platform ahead of the 'stylemaster's' first dive of the afternoon. And the 28-year-old certainly didn't disappoint his supporters, including his wife and wider family who had gathered below La Salve bridge, as he ripped the waters of the Nervión river and forced the panel of judges to flash the high scorecards.
"It's amazing," said an overwhelmed Paredes. "Competing here is surreal for me. My whole family is here, my wife is here, all my friends from the pool in Madrid. It's simply amazing. I felt really well today. Honestly, I had a lot of pressure and I was really nervous, but at least I can handle it. It was a great day of competition and hopefully it's going to be like that tomorrow."
Hunt, who dramatically lost his champion status in the final dives of last season, is clearly still feeling the handicap of his twisting mental block, and could only follow up his lowly 8th place finish from the Texas opener with another slow start which landed him in 11th in the standings after two rounds.
"The competition started off very well," said Hunt. "I did the best inward double half I've done all the year; from there it went downhill. I made a mistake on my armstand. It's kind of tough seeing the water here, it's all kind of dark, and there's no cliff face to judge the height so I'm definitely disappointed with my entry on my last dive. I've got work to do tomorrow, but I'm going to arrive here fired up."
Due to the possibility of bad weather affecting the final rounds on Saturday evening, the decision was made by the competition committee to complete two rounds of diving on Friday instead of the scheduled one, meaning the fans who gathered down by the riverside were treated to a bonus 14 dives. And Poland's Kris Kolanus, winner of the first stop of the season in the USA, was clearly energised by the atmosphere down below:
"At the last dive I had lots of energy," said Kolanus. "They were playing my favourite music and I started to dance. I had to calm down just a little bit, but I'll keep this energy for my big dives tomorrow, because then I have to do my very best."
On Saturday, the men will kick-off their third round 30 minutes earlier than planned in the hope of avoiding any potential weather intrusion, and thousands of fans are expected to line the Nervión to roar them on.
Men's Standings after Round 2
1- Jonathan Paredes MEX - 175.00pts
2- Michal Navratil CZE - 166.80
3- David Colturi USA - 161.40
3- Steven LoBue USA - 161.40
5- Kris Kolanus POL - 157.80
6- Blake Aldridge GBR - 154.60
7- Carlos Gimeno (W) ESP - 153.90
8- Artem Silchenko (W) RUS - 151.00
8- Alessandro De Rose ITA - 151.00
8- Orlando Duque COL - 151.00
11- Gary Hunt GBR - 149.40
12- Oleksiy Prygorov (W) UKR - 144.40
13- Andy Jones USA - 140.80
14- Alain Kohl (W) LUX - 130.80
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on June 30 at 6:15 PM CEST (4:15 PM GMT) on 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.