Wildcard and Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series rookie Rhiannan Iffland sealed a sensational title win in the women's competition with her very first dive under the lights in Dubai. Needing simply to complete one scoring effort from the 20.5m platform to put her out of reach of Canadian Lysanne Richard, the 25-year-old rounded off an unbelievable season with the same signature style and grace that she has displayed in all six previous events. In the men's competition, American Andy Jones holds a narrow lead going into the final two rounds over six-time champion, Gary Hunt, who already secured this season's title two weeks ago in Japan.
It was almost a foregone conclusion that Iffland would wrap up the overall victory with a single leap, but there was no applying of the brakes from the impressive Australian as she continued her magical form, putting down two beautiful dives in the Dubai dark and positioning herself perfectly at the top of the event standings with the clear intent of celebrating the title with yet another victory.
"I couldn't be happier," said an overjoyed Iffland. "It's been a dream of mine for the last couple of years just to be competing here, and it hasn't really sunk in yet that I won the title. I'd like to thank my friends and family and all of the divers around who have helped me."
Fellow Aussie, Helena Merten, sits in second place after two rounds, while American Cesilie Carlton holds third position heading into Friday's final.
In the men's competition it was Jones, enjoying the best season of his career, who edged into the lead after two rounds from the 27m platform attached to the Pier 7 restaurant building in Dubai Marina. With three podium finishes to his name already in 2016, the acrobatic American is perched nicely to claim another top three spot and will no doubt be dreaming of a first ever victory. Earlier, the 31-year-old had spoken about his previous experience of diving at night, something which clearly seems to be paying off for him at this first ever nighttime event.
"I feel good," explained Jones. "I did 2,000 shows in the dark at 'O' (Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas) and this here is very similar; lights all around you, completely dark in the theatre. It's all the same once you take off the platform. You know what to do and once you find the water you need to line up as you always do."
Breathing down the American's neck heading into the final rounds on Friday is six-time champion Gary Hunt, fresh from sealing his latest title victory in Japan a little under two weeks ago.
"I've never been on a movie set," said Hunt, "but that is exactly what it feels like with all the bright lights shining on us. It's a very strange feeling and an adjustment for all of us to make. Over the past ten years I got used to the height, got used to performing in front of a big crowd. Here it's very different, it's diving in the night but all the experience does count and I use it now to my advantage."
Just like Iffland, the unstoppable Brit will be looking to see out the season in style from the top of the podium here. Mexican Jonathan Paredes completes the top three in the overnight standings as he looks to hold onto second place overall ahead of Czech Michal Navratil.
With the two champions decided, there is still plenty of drama in prospect this weekend as the world's best cliff divers do battle one final time under the night lights, all looking to finish with a flourish in the warm waters of Dubai Marina.
MEN (after 2 of 4 Rounds)
1. Andy Jones, USA – 214.20pts.
2. Gary Hunt, GBR – 213.00
3. Jonathan Paredes, MEX – 210.35
4. Orlando Duque, COL – 202.30
5. Michal Navratil, CZE – 198.20
6. Sergio Guzman, MEX – 195.80
7. Artem Silchenko, RUS – 195.40
8. Alessandro De Rose (W), ITA – 193.10
9. Steven LoBue, USA – 187.50
10. Kyle Mitrione (W), USA – 183.30
11. Owen Weymouth (W), GBR – 156.70
12. Andrei Mikau (W), BLR – 147.40
13. Alain Kohl (W), LUX – 121.15
WOMEN (after 2 of 3 Rounds)
1. Rhiannan Iffland (W), AUS – 145.20pts.
2. Helena Merten, AUS – 136.95
3. Cesilie Carlton, USA – 125.50
4. Jaki Valente (W), BRA – 123.50
5. Adriana Jimenez, MEX – 115.70
6. Lysanne Richard, CAN – 114.80
7. Rachelle Simpson, USA – 113.00
8. Ginger Leigh Huber, USA – 107.70
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on October 28 from 5.50 PM GMT / 9.50 PM GST 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
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 2pm (ET) on December 04.