8 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series titles, 39 victories, 66 podiums and one very peculiar desire: to become a clown. Most people know Gary Hunt for his unrivalled record from the 27m platform, but beneath the laser-focused exterior lies an exceedingly clever and quirky character. On his 36th birthday, we dive deep into the mind of the champion with a series of quickfire questions.
What scares a cliff diver?
I'm scared when I lose control. A major part of diving is being in complete control of your body. Spending so much time focused on this has an effect on you outside of sport. When I feel there's something in my life of which I'm not able to control, that's what scares me.
What's your parents' attitude towards your dangerous passion?
It took many years for my mum to get used to my profession. Even now that she trusts I know what I'm doing she likes me to call her after the competitions to let her know that I'm ok.
Fill in the following phrase: A cliff diver automatically is also a...
... swimmer :-)
Have you lost the ability to jump in the water like a 'normal' person?
I can jump in the water in pretty much any way you want, novice, normal, or pro style.
Could you do mental maths during a dive?
I think it would be possible only with a simple math problem. Anything really taxing and you'd end up doing a belly flop.
What impresses more: Somebody who is able to perform one twist more, or someone who performs two somersaults less than you but in perfect execution?
For me the judges' scores count for more than the degree of difficulty. I'd rather execute a simpler dive perfectly than struggle with something more difficult. That said, you only get to perfection through many failures.
How high does a cliff have to be for you to say no?
It depends on what I want to do from the cliff. For a cliff diving competition 28m is the maximum, for a bit of fun... up, up and away.
How high was the highest cliff you ever jumped from?
I did a back flip from the top of the furore bridge on the Amalfi coast, which was around 32m.
At what age would you allow your children to jump off 27/21 metres?
It depends on the training of the child, whenever they have worked their way up and are strong enough to withstand the impact.
If you weren't a cliff diver, what would you have become instead?
Diving has changed the way I see the world, answering this question as a diver makes me biased. I'm tempted to say a juggler, but maybe it's playing so much with the force of gravity that makes me love throwing things in the air.
Who looks better doing a dive, the girls, or is it the boys?
It depends on the quality. Regardless of gender a good dive is a good dive.
Is there a sport you really suck at?
I'm pretty bad at basketball. I was on my school's netball team as a kid so I can't get used to everyone running around with the ball.
Who would you want to be for a day? Why?
I would like to be a ballet dancer. I'd love to feel that fluidity of movement, I'd be jumping around and dancing all day.
Your personal dream location
A competition on the moon would be out of this world ;-)
Have you ever used your talent to impress girls at the swimming pool? How did it work?
The only time I showed off in a pool it was to impress my coach with a straight reverse somersault on 1m. I landed shin first back on the springboard. I haven't tried it since.
Describe yourself in 3 words
A thinker, a lover and a competitor.
Your biggest weakness:
Beer and crisps.
What headline would you want to read about yourself?
Lottery winner Gary Hunt books ticket around the moon.
Something you always wanted to do but never dared to so far?
Move to Russia and learn to be a clown.
What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?
Please, finish this sentence: If I could tell you just one thing...
Learn something new everyday.
If you were the sports director what would be your first official act?
Pour out some liquor for Niki Stajkovic and call Greg Louganis to ask him what to do.
What's the most important asset in cliff diving?
Looking at the pool of cliff divers, build the perfect athlete.
Michal Navratil's pre-dive crowd control, David Colturi's jump, Kris Kolanus' pike shape, I'll take care of the twists, and Johnny's rip entry.