The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is back for the fifth time in France, and for the fourth time in La Rochelle, for its 2013 curtain-raiser on Saturday, May 25.
The last weekend in May marks the beginning of the fifth season in which an extraordinary set of athletes will fight for the prestigious title of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Champion. In the next five months, and during eight competitions, the cliff diving elite will launch from almost three times the Olympic diving height in venues all over the globe, showing their most spectacular and difficult tricks, and overcoming rational fear to impress the judges and wow crowds. As if the challenge wasn't great enough, the 2013 World Series comes to its scariest location first: La Rochelle, on France's Atlantic Coast.
120 steps to the top of the Saint Nicolas Tower and the scariest platform in the entire competition, the 27-metre structure will be the focus of attention for the tens of thousands of spectators who will flood La Rochelle's historic harbour.
Eight months after the last dive into the warm Omani waters of the Wadi Shab in the 2012 World Series, the top 10 divers from the past season and the qualification competition come to France to hit their very first high dives of the year. A lot will be expected of the sport's heavyweights, like Gary Hunt (UK) and Orlando Duque (COL), who have both been working on new dives during the off-season, as well as the newcomers, Jonathan Paredes (MEX), Anatoliy Shabotenko (UKR) and Matt Cowen (UK) - a trio of young athletes who will seek to push this rapidly-evolving sport even further.
Frenchmen Cyrille Oumedjkane and Hassan Mouti, as well as Alain Kohl (LUX) and Todor Spasov (BUL), complete the divers' list for the kick-off competition on May 24 and 25 as wildcard entries. All well-established athletes, they are the first of a pool of 15 wildcard divers who will be invited to one or more stops during the season.
The historic defence tower in La Rochelle's old port is a daunting location and the most dreaded among the divers. Its 27m plus platform appears even higher as it overlooks the roofs of the surrounding town and the athletes land in 12˚C water that's about as inviting as an ice bath! With the encouragement of a huge crowd the athletes will be challenged to summon their courage and master the three-second freefalls, during which they will achieve speeds of 85kph. Their pursuit of perfection will be assessed by five international judges, among them for the first time Russia's world famous Olympic diver Dmitri Sautin.