England's Gary Hunt and Adriana Jimenez of Mexico took a huge step in the fight for the King Kahekili trophy with crucial victories at the penultimate stop of the 2018 World Series in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Success at the historic Stari Most saw both divers leapfrog the current men's and women's leaders, Steven LoBue of the USA and Australia's Rhiannan Iffland, to head to the final showdown in Polignano a Mare, Italy, in two weeks' time with a 20 point lead each.
Czech Michal Navratil followed Hunt in second place, with wildcard Catalin Preda of Romania completing a stunning debut from 27m in third place. In the women's, reigning champion Iffland finished runner-up, meaning she has now gone two events without victory from 21m for the first time in her World Series career, while British wildcard Jessica Macaulay completed the podium in third place.
The best dive of the day wasn't enough for title holder Iffland to pull ahead of 33-year-old Jimenez, who now holds two season victories after a clean display of dives which saw her beat the Australian's competition high-score. As the season comes down to the wire, Australia's record winner travels to Italy with a confidence boost nevertheless, as she managed to pull off a good competition into the challenging Neretva River after a knee injury at the same spot in 2017.
"I'm really proud of myself," said Jimenez. "The pressure was so high. I tried to put myself together and be calm, try to not listen to the scores of the other girls as they are so good. I just tried to focus on my things and I'm so happy for the event, the people and the place, it's amazing.
"Regarding the overall, I'll stay the same and not focus on scores but on doing one thing at the time, one dive at the time and enjoy every second."
With another impressive podium finish for 25-year-old Macaulay, the wildcard holds every chance of jumping on the overall podium after she edged out comebacker Lysanne Richard to fourth place in today's fourth women's competition. A mere 20 points separate the Brit from the overall top three going into the decisive leg in Italy.
It's as tight in the men's when it comes to the fight for the top spot in the anniversary season. Despite some near-perfect scores from the judges in the opening rounds and the halfway lead, two disappointing optional dives meant title defender Jonathan Paredes from Mexico gave way to a newcomer on the podium.
Catalin Preda stunned the cliff diving elite by pulling off a never before performed dive – a back quad with 2 twists – for high notes from the judges in the final round. The day's best dive catapulted the 27-year-old Romanian from ninth position into the top three. "It's rare to have a wildcard come in capable of winning," complimented the new overall leader Hunt on the debutant, "he made one mistake so it's amazing he still managed to go onto the podium, so he is one to watch."
Record winner Hunt as well came from behind today after a below par second round dive which left him in tenth place before the final two rounds. Not only did he make it a hat-trick of wins this season, but he also became the first diver to ever repeat a victory in Mostar.
"It was a great competition," said Hunt. "I made a mistake yesterday but I've been in that situation before and I tried to remember those times when I had to come back; that's what I managed today. It definitely feels great to come back having won the competition last year.
"Last year they told me I've never won diving off a bridge before; this year they said nobody has ever won this competition twice. I managed to do that. They've also said whoever won here in Mostar, has never won the World Series. So I have one more job to do."
The Brit now holds all the trumps to regain the title as the 2018 World Series marches towards an exciting climax in a place where houses rise from the rocks in Italy.
1- Gary Hunt GBR – 415.30pts
2- Michal Navratil CZE – 394.10
3- Catalin Preda (W) ROU – 384.30
4- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 383.30
5- Steven LoBue USA – 382.50
6- Kris Kolanus POL – 382.20
7- Andy Jones USA – 364.35
8- Owen Weymouth (W) GBR – 358.20
9- Blake Aldridge GBR – 357.50
10- Sergio Guzman (W) MEX – 351.75
1- Adriana Jimenez MEX – 326.90pts
2- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 317.10
3- Jessica Macaulay (W) GBR – 308.55
4- Lysanne Richard CAN – 304.90
5- Yana Nestsiarava BLR – 280.50
6- Ginger Huber USA – 239.60
7- Xantheia Pennisi (W) AUS – 222.60
8- Iris Schmidbauer (W) GER – 215.40
9- Katy Etterman (W) USA – 200.45
10- Celia Fernandez (W) ESP – 187.40
Watch the Mostar Replay
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