This weekend the world's best cliff divers return to the sport's European home, Polignano a Mare, for the 7th time as they continue their fight for the King Kahekili trophy at the third stop of the 2019 season. This beautiful little town, where houses rise from rocks high above the Adriatic Sea, has witnessed its fair share of drama and excitement over the years, and it's time to take a glance back over the most memorable moments.
The year is 2009, and the World Series arrives in this pearl on the Puglia coast for the very first time. The sport is in its fledgling first season and it's a youthful-looking Orlando Duque, in the prime of his cliff diving career, who scores a narrow victory over a blossoming Gary Hunt.
"I remember the fans being really behind me, cheering really loudly and just being so excited to be here," reminisces Duque of that first stop here 10 years ago. "Gary was the up and coming star back then and I'd already been around for a while, so it was the start of some really good battles between us."
For Hunt himself, this place has both bitten and blessed him in equal measure. In 2010, the Brit wound up in hospital following a heavy crash into the water. Five years later, on his next return to the spot, he banished the bad memories with a powerhouse performance that earned him 5 tens across the competition. And just last year, a miraculous comeback was completed from the 27m platform when the 34-year-old won his fourth stop in a row to earn a 7th World Series crown at the season finale.
Other notable moments include the debut of the youngest ever World Series diver, a 16-year-old Aidan Heslop in 2018, and women's world champion Rhiannan Iffland becoming the most decorated female in the sport after securing her third title in a row here last year. But perhaps the most iconic and enduring memory stems from a cliff diving fairytale in 2017.
Italy's Alessandro De Rose, appearing alongside the sport's heavyweights as a wildcard, conjured up the performance of a lifetime to snatch a truly sensational victory with the very final dive, sending thousands of fans into rapture and cementing a legacy here which will never be forgotten. Those who were there to witness it are still unable to shake off the goose bumps when thinking back to that day.
"I have not yet realised that just happened," said a disbelieving De Rose at the time. "One moment I was on the platform, I hit the water and the people were screaming. It's a dream come true. Orlando is a legend, Gary is a legend and I was better than them."
All four men who have won in this location – Duque, Hunt, De Rose and Russia's Artem Silchenko – are present this weekend to compete for the top spot once again.
Not only has this location been graced with sporting drama and landmark moments, it has also acted as a cliff diving playground for the athletes, who to this day continue to tap the beautiful Adriatic location for all of its recreational potential. Over the years we've witnessed the fearless Hunt taking running leaps through windows and over balconies, local hero De Rose springing heroically into the sea in pursuit of a wayward soccer ball and a jaw-dropping domino dive stretching across hundreds of metres of cliff face, just to mention a few.
Relive the most playful cliff diving moments from Polignano a Mare below.
And De Rose was up to his tricks again this week. While most of his fellow divers were enjoying a spot of fine Italian cuisine in the town, the 26-year-old was busy strapping on glowsticks and honouring his country's National Day with a spectacular night-time dive.
Watch De Rose's night dive below
What will the next chapter in this playful and dramatic Italian cliff diving anthology bring? 60,000 passionate fans are expected to turn out on land and boat on Sunday afternoon to find out.
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