Skill, athleticism, precision and nerves of steel; just a few of the most important attributes a successful cliff diver must possess. The sport's big names - Hunt, Duque, LoBue, Paredes and so on - have displayed enough of these qualities over the years to earn a rightful permanent place on the tour. For a wildcard however, it's more than just showing up and performing your best routine from the 27m platform. Life as a cliff diving wildcard is full of uncertainty, pressure, last-minute call ups and that constant strive to make the leap from temporary to permanent status.
In ten years of the World Series, many wonderful wildcard stories have abounded. Who could forget Italian Alessandro De Rose's sensational and emotional win on home soil in Polignano a Mare, or the Russian Nikita Fedotov's podium-snagging debut in Mostar? On the other hand, the fall from grace when an athlete loses their permanent spot can be crushing; a fate which befell former champion Artem Silchenko (RUS) in 2016. How do they cope with the unpredictability, the highs and lows, and the mental pressure of being the World Series' understudies?
Currently out of action through injury, the multi-talented American David Colturi took on the role of interviewer ahead of the men's fifth stop of the season in Copenhagen, sitting down with the wildcards to discuss their strategy and approach to competition.
David: Coming from traditional springboard Olympic diving, how do you view the process of becoming a wildcard and trying to qualify into the top 10?
Oleksiy: First of all, my aim was to make it into the top 10, but after my second competition I realised it was a really difficult, tiring and dangerous sport. Now, I'm just thinking about safe dives and enjoying it. In the Ukraine team it's not a good atmosphere, but here all the guys push you and support you. I love it. It's my second life. It's not a big deal for me right now to be in the top 10, I know I will be one day.
David: You were a wildcard in 2015, made it onto the World Series in 2016 and 2017, then missed out on a permanent spot for this season by one place. How did that feel and what did it change?
Sergio: I think the accident in Mostar affected me a little bit, but it doesn't feel much different this season. My goal is to qualify and be with you guys again at all competitions.
David: So, how do you plan to do it?
Sergio: Training and focus. I need to be strong mentally and do what I know I can do.
David: You're in a unique situation: one of the only people who has the dives, has the skills, tools, but you're in the unfortunate circumstance where you're an American wildcard with three athletes per nation being the maximum number in the permanent line up. What does that do for you?
Kyle: The way I look at it now is one, it's extremely difficult to be that third American; what I try to achieve is compete as often as I can and see how good I can be, but realistically being a part of the Series is not a goal. It's not what I think about from year to year. It would be nice, but doing as many competitions as I can is also a goal.
David: Being one of the few divers who's gone through the whole system – wildcard, series diver, knocked off, series diver again – what would you say is the biggest thing you've learned and what advice would you give to someone coming in?
Kris: Follow your instincts, do what you love – that's the most important. Don't look at the others; if you love diving and want to do it, just do it.
David: How do you make it through?
Kris: Don't try to become a permanent diver, just focus on what is now; enjoy the moment, enjoy the sightseeing; it's also your life. Don't get stressed about the competition; if you're in a nice location, just step back and look at where you are, don't try too hard. Let go and you'll succeed.
The mindset and approach clearly varies from wildcard to wildcard. Some, like Sergio Guzman, are fighting hard to regain their spot. Others, like newcomer Oleksiy Prygorov, are happy just to bed in and enjoy the experience for now, knowing that the time to step things up will come later. Despite the differing strategies, what shines through even at wildcard level is a pure passion and love for the sport. In the wise words of the experienced Kris Kolanus: "If you love diving and want to do it, just do it."
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on August 25 at 2:45 PM CEST (12:45 PM GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV, Facebook & Youtube. 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.