Gary Hunt powered into an early lead on the first day of competition at the third stop of the 2016 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in the Portuguese Azores. Diving directly off the rocks into the mid-Atlantic Ocean, the Brit was followed by Americans David Colturi and Steven LoBue in second and third place respectively. Ginger Huber of the USA holds an overnight lead in the women's event, with wildcard Rhiannan Iffland of Australia sitting in second place and her compatriot Helena Merten in third.
Friday's first rounds provided the athletes with a test of pure cliff diving, requiring them to display their skills directly off the cliff face at the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo. Here the sport really returns to its roots, and it's a chance for the divers to experience the sensation of lifting off from a natural surface for the first time this season, as well as battle any elements the ocean waters may throw at them.
In the men's competition, Gary Hunt picked up where he left off in Copenhagen, displaying his familiar flawless technique and exquisite entries to surge into the lead after the first two rounds. American David Colturi continued his impressive form, battling through the pain of a shoulder injury to grab second place in the standings. Following a seventh-place finish in Texas and fourth in Denmark, the 27-year-old will be aiming to improve one better at least and make his first podium appearance of the season. Fellow American Steven LoBue holds third place, and will now head into Saturday confident of returning to the top three for the first time since his win in Bilbao at the end of last season.
Over in the women's competition it was experience which won over youth, as 41-year-old Ginger Huber of the USA took an early lead ahead of Australian newcomers Rhiannan Iffland and Helena Merten. Huber, runner-up overall in 2015, will be looking to draw on every drop of her expansive cliff diving experience to pick up a first ever victory on Saturday. Following her stunning debut victory in the USA last month, wildcard Iffland continues to amaze and confound with another display of impeccable diving. Texas was certainly no fluke, and a second win in two events could well be on the cards tomorrow. At 21, Merten is the youngest of the women, and she also impressed the judges again and is clearly intent on making her second podium of the season in the Portuguese archipelago.
After two rounds of action from the rocks, the divers will make a return to familiar territory on Saturday when they step up onto the platforms high above the Atlantic Ocean. It's certain to be an eventful finale, and you can watch all the drama unfold live from 11.20 AM (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
Friday's Results (Rounds 1 and 2)
1. Gary Hunt (GBR) - 228.00
2. David Colturi (USA) - 205.80
3. Steven LoBue (USA) - 205.50
4. Andy Jones (USA) - 204.70
5. Jonathan Paredes (MEX) - 203.90
6. Artem Silchenko (RUS) - 199.20
7. Blake Aldridge (GBR) - 197.05
8. Michal Navratil (CZE) - 189.10
9. Orlando Duque (COL) - 185.05
10. Kyle Mitrione (USA) (W) - 184.40
11. Kris Kolanus (POL) (W) - 181.00
12. Todor Spasov (BUL) (W) 165.65
13. Sergio Guzman (MEX) - 138.75
14. Miguel Garcia (COL) (W) 135.90
1. Ginger Huber (USA) - 159.00
2. Rhiannan Iffland (W) (Aus) - 152.20
3. Helena Merten (AUS) - 147.10
4. Yana Nestsiarava (BLR) (W) - 142.40
5. Lysanne Richard (CAN) - 141.30
6. Cesilie Carlton (USA) - 137.20
7. Jaki Valente (BRA) (W) - 128.70
8. Rachelle Simpson (USA) - 122.90
9. Adriana Jimenez (MEX) - 99.40
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 6pm (ET) on August 14