When bare feet rise from the rocks, the world's best cliff divers return to the World Series' most classic location on the visually stunning volcanic island in the Portuguese Azores for the 8th year in a row. Those who want to stay in contention need to prove versatility, as 24 athletes will once again leap both from the rocks and the platforms in their battle for crucial championship points. Following a thriller in Polignano a Mare, which saw the champions Gary Hunt (GBR) and Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) stretch their leads at the top of the standings with two wide-margin victories, the 2019 season will reach its midway point offshore from São Miguel.
Record-smashing Iffland can make history in her 21st appearance in the World Series. The 27-year-old Australian holds all the trumps to secure her 4th victory in the season's 4th event from 21m, something no other female athlete has yet achieved in this sport.
So far, the remaining podium spots have been divided between Yana Nestsiarava from Belarus and Canada's Lysanne Richard with a second and a third place each, as well as 2018 runner-up Adriana Jimenez (MEX) and the new face on the podium in Italy, Maria Paula Quintero (COL). If anyone is to topple the dominant Australian, it'll most likely be one of this foursome.
Supreme acrobatic skills will also be required in the men's to stir up the standings halfway through the season, with the added challenge of dealing with the open ocean. While Britain's Hunt is the most successful athlete in this majestic location with three wins, the 35-year-old hasn't tasted victory in the previous two Portuguese competitions.
With Hunt's supposed biggest rival, Constantin Popovici from Romania, not starting in Portugal due to injury, the door is open for an invigorated Andy Jones (USA), whose 2nd place in Italy moved him up to the same rank in the overall standings ahead of Poland's Kris Kolanus. 2017 champion Jonathan Paredes (MEX) and World Series veteran Michal Navratil from the Czech Republic, are fired up for their first season win following their podium finishes this season.
The tiny volcanic Islet of Vila Franca do Campo has been the setting for plenty of drama in seasons gone by, and the stage is set for more excitement on the 'Princess Ring' as this nature reserve is called by the locals. Almost circular in shape but broken by a sea entrance through one section of its perimeter, the phenomenal visuals of this venue in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean will be the backdrop not only for the sport's elite but also some fresh faces and upcoming talent.
Watch LIVE from Azores
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