Michal Navratil made a stunning return to action following knee surgery by spoiling Gary Hunt's homecoming with a spectacular win in Wales. It was the Czech's first ever victory in eight years competing in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Hunt finished just points away from a dream return to the UK in second place, while Andy Jones continued his impressive form this season with another podium finish. In the women's event, wildcard Rhiannan Iffland returned to winning ways to continue her magical debut season and pull further away at the top of the standings, while Lysanne Richard followed up her win in Italy with another second-place finish and Cesilie Carlton completed the podium.
A windy weather forecast in this south-west corner of Wales meant that the whole competition had to be completed in one day for the first time in World Series history, and it was Navratil who seemed to excel under the compressed schedule in front of a sold-out crowd of 2800 fans. The Czech showman, nicknamed Supratil and famous for his 'Superman' dives at the end of events, had missed last month's competition in Italy due to knee surgery, but displayed superhuman powers of recovery to return here at the Blue Lagoon and seize his first ever victory at the 53rd attempt. Leading after the 3rd round, he narrowly held off the charge of pumped-up home favourite Gary Hunt, displaying no signs of pressure from 27.5m after the Brit had moved into the lead with only the Czech left to dive.
The recently married Navratil moves up to 4th in the standings, while Hunt extends his lead at the top ahead of Mexican Jonathan Paredes, who could only finish 5th. American Andy Jones, already with two runner-up places in his pocket this year, further enhanced what is his best season so far with another brilliant performance to take 3rd place.
"I didn't expect that at all," said an overjoyed Navratil. "The surgery is still fresh and I haven't trained for one month. I just wanted to get my first competition dive after the injury done and see how it works. I started to do some physical exercise two weeks ago. Our physiotherapist Angy did a great job to stabilize my knee and after the first competition dive I felt really great. So I went full in for the competition, focused on what I had to do. I'm really happy to take my first win and even beat the champion."
In the women's competition, wildcard Rhiannan Iffland added more daylight between herself and her rivals at the top of the standings with a third win in four events this year. The Australian rookie had seen her winning streak ended by Lysanne Richard in Italy two weeks ago, but bounced back in emphatic style by putting down three dives of the highest quality from 20m. Canadian Richard is not going to lay down quietly though, and having recorded another impressive 2nd place finish here it looks like a thrilling battle is in store between the two heading into the final three events.
"I think my real secret is that I don't stress," explained Iffland after her win. "I just relax up there and do my thing like in a training session. Every single time I surprise myself, to be honest. I usually arrive at a location thinking maybe I won't do so well, but once I'm actually up there and feel it and I know I'm here for the enjoyment. I absolutely love it."
Next up it's a return to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. where 22 of the world's best cliff divers will continue their battle from the magnificent and historic Stari Most bridge as the 2016 season marches towards an exciting climax.
1. Michal Navratil, CZE – 500.75pts
2. Gary Hunt, GBR – 496.60
3. Andy Jones, USA – 473.85
4. Sergio Guzman, MEX – 466.65
5. Jonathan Paredes, MEX – 461.70
6. Steven LoBue, USA – 431.60
7. Alessandro De Rose (W), ITA – 401.20
8. Blake Aldridge, GBR – 396.75
9. David Colturi, USA – 282.30
10. Alain Kohl (W), LUX – 278.20
11. Orlando Duque, COL – 275.40
12. Miguel Garcia (W), COL – 266.80
13. Mat Cowen (W), GBR – 266.40
14. Artem Silchenko, RUS – 189.15
1. Rhiannan Iffland (W), AUS – 243.30pts.
2. Lysanne Richard, CAN – 219.90
3. Cesilie Carlton, USA – 218.25
4. Rachelle Simpson, USA – 217.60
5. Adriana Jimenez, MEX – 199.40
6. Ginger Huber, USA - 214.40
7. Helena Merten, AUS - 205.35
8. Jaki Valente (W), BRA – 187.75
9. Tara Hyer-Tira (W), USA – 169.60
Watch the action
This event will be available on demand from 2.50 PM BST on September 11 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
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 10.30 am (ET) on October 09.