Why Can’t Paredes Convert His Chances?

Jonathan Paredes
Three great starts have given way to final day blues for the 'stylemaster' this season

The second half of the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series sparks into life this weekend at Hell's Gate, marking a return to the scene of Jonathan Paredes' last victory. While this location may bring back special memories for the Mexico native, he arrives in the US this week on the back of a turbulent season which has seen him lead all three events after day one, only to crumble out of contention for the podium on the final day. What is happening with the 'stylemaster' this summer, and why has he been unable to convert such blistering starts into victories or even podium finishes?

Rewind a few months back to June. The battering rain and wind on day one of competition was causing all kinds of problems for the world's best cliff divers at the opening event on Ireland's Inis Mór, but Paredes was a ray of light as he nailed his first two dives and surged into the lead. Beginning day two with another brilliant dive, and holding a lead heading into the final round, it seemed like another winning start was on the cards for the man who kicked off 2016 with a stunning victory here in Texas.

Paredes attempts his brand new dive for the first time in Inis Mór, Ireland. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Then came his final dive. For Paredes, who has always excelled in his lower degree of difficulty dive list, it was a new, improved and much more complex dive than he had ever performed in the World Series - a Forward 4 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists. It was the new weapon which he hoped would be the catalyst for him to begin dominating the sport that for so many years he has looked destined to do.

"I was feeling in the comfort zone for the last five years doing my easy dives," explains Paredes. "But at the end of last season when I made my final podium in Dubai, I wasn't happy because I realised that every competition I have to wait for someone to fail a dive. Even if I do perfect dives, someone has to fail for me to make the podium.

"I realised it was time to do something different, not just for competition, but for me to feel better with myself. After Dubai I returned to Madrid and told my coach this is the dive I want to do, and began to learn it from then."

Back to Ireland, where the Mexican departed the platform with a running take-off as the cliff diving world held its breath in anticipation. But it didn't go to plan. Paredes hit the water hard, sending up a big splash, and the judges could only award him with fours from a possible high of ten. 

Two weeks later, it was a case of déjà vu as once again he led after day one in the Portuguese Azores, but faltered with his new dive in the third round and dropped down to fourth place.

Clearly the dive was not working out as Paredes had hoped, but even amid the heartache and frustration of those first two events, he never contemplated returning to his old dive list.

"Orlando and I sat down," he says, "and worked out that if I had done my old dive list this season, and executed it the same way as last season, I would have won all three competitions. It's an interesting fact, but it doesn't even come in to my mind that I would go back into that comfort zone again."

So to the third stop of the season in Italy and, once more, it was a familiar face at the top after two rounds. Ironically, a mistake on his routine back twist in the third round ended his chances of victory this time. Driven by anger at himself, he stepped up for the final round and produced a jaw-dropping moment, nailing his new dive for nines and proving to the world that he could indeed master it.

Thumbs down from the Mexican after a bad entry in the third round let him down in Italy, but he followed it up by nailing his new dive. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

"It was frustrating, of course," says Paredes. "I think maybe I had my mind on the world championships already and missed the entry badly on my back twist. But doing my new dive for nines gave me a lot of confidence.

"To be honest, I feel really comfortable with the dive. I just think it's the pressure of the competition, and the level is going up really fast. Also, now I'm 28 and I want my time at the top to start soon and not when I'm 30 years old. I want it now and that probably puts more pressure on me."

So, maybe a return to the place where he last tasted victory might be just what Paredes needs to relax, bring everything together and finally step back up on the podium.

Paredes warms up for the fourth stop in Texas with an American football training session alongside ex-NFL linebacker David Vobora. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

"I have many good memories from Texas, and I hope to repeat my first place from last year. I really want to be in the fight for the title and not just the podium. It's frustrating that I haven't made the podium yet this season, but I have a feeling that the second half of the season is going to be better for me."

Watch Live from Texas

This event will be LIVE on September 03 from 3 pm local time (8 pm GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV and Facebook. 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.

Read and watch more Red Bull Cliff Diving here