31-year-old Steven LoBue will have a changed mind-set when he steps up to the 27-metre platform mounted on the daunting former defence tower for the next stop of the World Series in France's Bay of Biscay. The Florida resident earned the nickname 'Miracle Man' after he hit the platform in this location last year with a sickening bump yet escaped with just a scratch on his forehead. Now a father, he will return to this most intimidating of all spots determined to channel the fear felt by all the athletes at the top of the platform. While the American strives for a comeback on the podium, the season's back-to-back winner Gary Hunt from Great Britain wants to make it a hat-trick of victories in his adopted home in front of a record breaking crowd.
In May 2015 in France, Steven LoBue drew gasps from 75,000 spectators as he hit the 27-metre board with his head. Immediately, his mind switched to autopilot to complete the 85km/h dive and when he surfaced from the water the only sign of the accident was a scratch above his left eye. In the days prior to the return to La Rochelle, where the World Series premiered in 2009, LoBue relives the moment that earned him the 'Miracle Man' nickname.
"Right as I took off I knew it was wrong but didn't know how bad it would be. When my face made contact with the platform I obviously knew for sure it was bad news but the reality didn't really sink in until I was being back-boarded. My brain didn't really start processing what had happened until I was being rescued from the water. Then as everything became a reality, my first thought was, 'I wonder if I still made finals.'"
In cliff diving the drive for perfection comes along with an ever-present fear.
"I've always been a huge believer in respecting and maintaining healthy levels of fear. I think if you climb up on to that platform to perform a dive, you have to be a little bit scared to keep you focused. Too much fear can paralyze you and shut down your ability to think clearly and rationally, whereas having too little fear can result in careless mistakes that could create injury. It's really all about finding the right balance between fear and confidence. I can tell you I absolutely get scared, every dive, every time, but it's a healthy fear."
LoBue went on to win in the final event of 2015, underlining his status as one of the main challengers to Gary Hunt, the World Series' 5-time winner and the season's current leader.
With two wins to his name after three competitions, the Brit feels more than ready to repeat his 2015 victory in this location, which will host the world's cliff diving elite for the 6th time in eight years of the series and Hunt will once more show the most difficult dive in the sport to impress the judges as well as an expected record breaking crowd.
The one-of-a-kind atmosphere when 75,000 people are hushed for the three-second dives of 14 of the world's top cliff divers and then cheer the resurfacing athlete can be watched live on Red Bull TV and stations around the world next Saturday.
Wildcards: Cyrille Oumedjkane (FRA), Jucelino Junior (BRA), Kris Kolanus (POL), Viktar Maslouski (BLR).
Standings MEN (after 3 of 9 stops)
1. Gary Hunt, GBR – 510pts.
2. Jonathan Paredes, MEX – 460
3. Orlando Duque, COL – 270
4. Blake Aldridge, GBR – 240
4. David Colturi, USA – 240
6. Andy Jones, USA – 230
6. Michal Navratil, CZE – 230
8. Kris Kolanus (W), POL – 200
9. Artem Silchenko, RUS – 130
10. Steven LoBue, USA – 130
11. Alessandro De Rose (W), ITA – 98
12. Sergio Guzman, MEX – 68
13. Kyle Mitrione (W), USA – 59
14. Alain Kohl (W), LUX – 50
15. Miguel Garcia (W), COL – 17
16. Todor Spasov (W), BUL - 9
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on July 23 from 4.50 PM GMT on www.redbullcliffdiving.com and Red Bull TV. 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.
Note that the live webcast and replay is geo-blocked in the US due to an exclusive broadcast deal with FOX Sports. The event will air on FS1 at 1pm (ET) on August 21.