Reigning World Series champions Jonathan Paredes (MEX) and Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) sent a message out to their title rivals during the first day of competition in Polignano a Mare, Italy, leaping into the lead after two rounds at the season's final stop to prove they are still in the fight. Both have ground to make up if they want to retain the King Kahekili Trophy, and this will be the start they dreamed of, with Paredes looking down on England's Gary Hunt and American Steven LoBue, who are tied in fifth, while Iffland is ahead of Mexico's Adriana Jimenez in second and Lysanne Richard of Canada who sits back in fourth.
Paredes, defending the title he won memorably with the final dive of 2017, has had an up and down season with three podium places being offset by a 10th and 6th place finish. The Mexican knows he must again win and hope his rivals falter badly, but just like last year the pressure is off:
"Honestly, I'm very calm," said Paredes. "At this point I feel like I have nothing to lose and I have a lot to win. It's been a hard year for me, but I just want to get the win here and finish on the podium."
Hunt, who has recently rediscovered the magic that led him to six titles by winning the last three stops, scored solid 8s for his first two dives, and the Brit isn't too concerned by the positions after day one:
"It makes things very interesting for the final day," said Hunt. "Jonathan's got a small lead of 12 points, but I'm not too disheartened. I have won the last two stops by a margin of more than 12 points, so I think it's still in my grasp."
LoBue trails Hunt by 20 points in the overall standings and must finish above the six-time champion if he wants to take the title back to the USA for the first time ever:
"Anything's possible in this sport, and anyone can get the win on any given day," said the 33-year-old 'spinmaster'. "With Gary's DD (degree of difficulty) it's always a challenge, but those are his dives and I can't really focus on that. I have to focus on what I know how to do and go one dive at a time out there."
In the women's, Iffland stated her intentions with a sensational second round showing, which earned her the highest ever score for a single dive from the 21m platform. The Australian is chasing a hat-trick of titles to become the most successful female in World Series history, but needs to overhaul the 20 point gap to overall leader Jimenez to do so:
"I feel a little bit less pressure coming in here, I don't know why," said Iffland. "I came in thinking that I can't control what anyone else does, so just to be myself in my own skin up there. I changed the order of my dives to put that difficult dive on the first day, because I thought I'd have more power and more energy. It paid off and I'm super stoked with that."
On Sunday afternoon, thousands of fans are expected to fill every vantage point to witness what is sure to be a thrilling final showdown in the place where houses rise from the rocks.
Standings after Round 2:
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 175.95pts
2- Adriana Jimenez MEX – 144.60
3- Yana Nestsiarava BLR – 143.90
4- Lysanne Richard CAN – 140.30
5- Antonina Vyshyvanova (W) UKR – 125.80
6- Jacquline Valente (W) BRA – 121.80
6- Jessica Macaulay (W) GBR – 121.80
8- Ginger Huber USA – 113.50
9- Xantheia Pennisi (W) AUS – 111.70
10- Maria Paula Quintero (W) COL – 108.70
1- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 165.40pts
2- Michal Navratil CZE – 160.40
3- Andy Jones USA – 159.00
4- Kris Kolanus POL – 153.80
5- Steven LoBue USA – 153.60
5- Gary Hunt GBR - 153.60
7- Blake Aldridge GBR – 151.80
8- Alessandro De Rose ITA – 151.20
9- Sergio Guzman (W) MEX – 136.80
10- Owen Weymouth (W) ROU – 133.20
11- Constantin Popovici (W) ROU – 131.40
12- Aidan Heslop (W) GBR – 127.00
13- Oleksiy Prygorov (W) UKR – 123.40
Watch Live from Polignano a Mare
This event will be LIVE on September 23 at 13:10 PM CEST (11:10 AM 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.