England's Gary Hunt and Rhiannan Iffland of Australia increased their stranglehold at the top of the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series with yet another victory each in the pure Portuguese Azores. For Iffland, it was a record-breaking fourth win in a row this season, while Hunt had to be at his imperious best to see off the marauding challenge of Mexico's Jonathan Paredes, who himself broke a long standing record by earning six 10 scorecards across the weekend. The World Series was also making a record eighth stop at the volcanic mid-Atlantic location, which awaited the cliff diving elite with demanding conditions.
Iffland, who had begun the week with a 10 in her very first dive from 21m, continued her unstoppable form despite the disruptions caused by bad weather at the fourth stop of the season. Just like three weeks ago in Polignano a Mare, the Australian dominated from start to finish, winning by an impressive 22 point margin from England's Jessica Macaulay in second place, her first podium as a permanent diver, and Canada's Lysanne Richard in third.
"I didn't want to think about the record until the event was done," said Iffland, "but now it's done I can celebrate it. I've won the first four now and I think now I can be a bit more relaxed, but I still have goals to achieve. It's three more events and anything can happen, so it's going to be full ball until the last dive in the last event."
For Hunt, this was not the easy ride he had recently in Italy when winning by a massive 50 point margin. Instead, he was pushed to his limits by the sensational performance of 2017 champion Paredes, who began and ended the competition with three 10s, surpassing the Brit's combined record of five times the highest note from the jury at a single stop.
That Hunt held his nerve to execute a magnificent final dive of his own speaks volumes about the unshakeable 7-time champion, and although the Mexican is glad to enter the second half of the season with such a strong performance, he will be wondering just what he has to do to earn a victory ahead of his great rival. Just three points separated them at the end, with the resurgent American Andy Jones finishing third to earn his second podium in a row.
"The reason I put the triple quad at the end is because I knew I can do it under pressure," said Hunt. "I've been in that situation before and I knew Jonathan would put the pressure on right till the end. So I felt comfortable with that.
"I'm just going to ride this wave of confidence. The best thing you can bring to a competition is confidence and last year I definitely didn't have that from the start; I had to build it up and I'm still riding that wave now."
In the overall standings this trio leads the board with the Brit clearly ahead on top and Paredes and Jones tied in 2nd place. In the women's it's the sport's dominant force from down under who tops the overall standings in front of today's podium finishers Richard and Macaulay.
After an eventful final day at the 'Princess Ring', where athletes had to complete three dives instead of the usual two due to the weather disruptions on Friday and veterans as well as rising talent were put to the test, the cliff diving elite will next travel to a brand new location in Beirut, Lebanon. In mid July, 24 athletes will once again be tasked with diving both from the platforms and the bare rocks.
1- Gary Hunt GBR – 420.60pts.
2- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 417.50
3- Andy Jones USA – 375.45
4- Michal Navratil CZE – 362.45
5- Oleksiy Prygorov UKR – 365.55
6- Catalin Preda (W) ROU – 329.40
7- David Colturi USA – 317.70
8- Nikita Fedotov (W) RUS – 313.85
9- Slavik Kolesnikov (W) URK – 306.05
10- Blake Aldridge GBR – 299.75
11- Kris Kolanus POL – 272.35
12- Steven LoBue USA – 255.90
13- Manuel Halbisch (W) GER – 215.60
14- Jucelino Junior (W) BRA – 140.65
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 326.80pts.
2- Jessica Macaulay GBR – 304.70
3- Lysanne Richard CAN – 298.30
4- Eleanor Townsend Smart USA – 287.95
5- Adriana Jimenez MEX – 279.65
6- Iris Schmidbauer (W) GER – 258.80
7- Jacqueline Valente (W) BRA – 250.00
8- Maria Paula Quintero (W) COL – 219.75
9- Yana Nestsiarava BLR – 216.75
10- Celia Fernandez (W) ESP – 175.10
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