Following a wet and windy morning in Inis Mor, the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series finally got off to a later than scheduled start on Friday evening, with women's wildcard Eleanor Townsend Smart leaping into a surprise lead on her debut. Jonathan Paredes tops the men's standings after two rounds heading into Saturday's finals on Ireland's raw Atlantic coast.
With the light fading fast and the women's schedule reduced from two rounds to one, 21-year-old American Townsend Smart, the youngest of all eight women here, defied her wildcard status and shone with her first dive at the tempestuous Serpent's Lair, where the wind whirled and temperatures struggled to reach 13C. It's a remarkable start for the rookie in a place that has had its wicked way with many a more experienced diver, and while there are still three rounds to go she was understandably excited afterwards:
"It has all been crazy in the last couple of days," said Townsend Smart. "I didn't even know two weeks ago that I'd be coming here. Just to get that call was like a dream come true and then standing here today and having all these weather delays it was tough. I was just so excited to dive that I didn't let it affect me as much and I've been training really hard. I've gotten all my dives off and ripped them and I've started to get my entries clean in practice. Tonight I just came here to step out there and trust my training and not put pressure on doing well, but enjoying the moment and what I do."
In the men's it was 'style-master' Paredes who displayed his trademark water-ripping talent in the natural sea-pool, despite the crashing ocean waves causing his target to sink and swell wildly. The Mexican leads the way after two rounds, with Brit Blake Aldridge in second and America's Andy Jones in third.
"The biggest challenge today? Everything," explained the Mexican, "the weather conditions, the time of the competition... we waited the whole day just to get here and dive. It was a really difficult day for everyone and tomorrow is going to be another difficult day, but I'm the happiest guy in the world right now and I hope to do the same thing tomorrow and get my first win of the year."
On Saturday the divers will return to Serpent's Lair, and with a less than perfect weather forecast they will once again need to be at their very best in order to conquer the rough conditions and make a successful start to the season.
Men's standings after Round 2
1 - Jonathan Paredes (MEX) - 168.60 pts
2 - Blake Aldridge (GBR) - 163.20
3 - Andy Jones (USA) - 160.40
4 - Orlando Duque (COL) - 154.20
5 - Gary Hunt (GBR) - 153.40
6 - David Colturi (USA) - 152.40
7 - Alain Kohl (W) (LUX) - 142.80
8 - Alessandro De Rose (W) (ITA) - 137.20
9 - Kris Kolanus (POL) - 133.20
10 - Steven LoBue (USA) - 121.60
11 - Michal Navratil (CZE) - 114.15
12 - Artem Silchenko (W) (RUS) - 103.20
13 - Sergio Guzman (MEX) - 98.30
14 - Igor Semashko (W) (RUS) - 84.30
Women's standings after Round 1
1 - Eleanor Townsend Smart (W) (USA) - 66.30 pts
2 - Adriana Jimenez (MEX) - 63.70
3 - Yana Nestsiarava (BLR) - 59.80
4 - Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) - 59.80
5 - Ginger Huber (USA) - 58.50
6 - Helena Merten (AUS) - 54.60
7 - Tara Hyer-Tira (W) USA - 52.00
8 - Cesilie Carlton (USA) - 50.70
Watch Live from Inis Mór
The season opener will be LIVE on June 24 from 12.00 local time (11.00 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.