While Australian wildcard, Rhiannan Iffland, looks to continue a truly unbelievable run of form in the women's competition, having won the first two events in her debut season, the stunning cliffs of Italy's Adriatic coast mark the last highlight in Rachelle Simpson's career to date. In Polignano a Mare, the location where houses rise from the cliffs and the athletes make a most unique walk to the platform, the American topped her 2015 season with a second World Series title in a row. After a slow start, the 28-year-old plans to come back strong and follow her male counterpart, reigning champion Gary Hunt, who is targeting a remarkable fourth consecutive victory from the 27m-platform.
Rachelle Simpson's record of five wins in six competitions in the previous two years have been put on hold due to a rough start with injuries and health issues that have hindered her training and preparation for what is the biggest season in the Women's World Series to date. Seven stops between June and October, including an off-the-cliff competition and four unknown venues, put the athletes to a real test mentally as well as physically, as each dive means an impact of up to 5G physical force on the body. "I haven't been able to prepare as I intended but when I could I did try to focus on upping my endurance and recovery time so that I could try and fight off fatigue with so many competitions this year," the Texan states looking forward to Italy, "hopefully, I can channel some of my previous success at this location!"
World Series rookie Rhiannan Iffland from Australia, who has taken the cliff diving elite by surprise, pocketed this season's first two victories in the women's and is aiming for a wildcard's first ever three-peat. "What an incredible young woman! She definitely has some of that 'Gary Hunt and Orlando Duque' coolness up on the platform and maybe a little bit of that 'Jonathan Paredes' form and ripped entry!" Simpson believes that a whole new generation of female cliff divers is around the corner with another Australian rookie, Helena Merten, in third overall and defines keeping up with these developments as one major challenge: "These women are blowing my mind! New, harder degree of difficulty dives and more consistent than ever! I think the added competition loads will only help! I can also see height being added in the future. We are doing bigger and harder dives but there may come a time when we need more room for added flips and twists."
Stealing a glance at the men's, where up to five somersaults in less than 3 seconds are daily business, it's the mental toughness that impresses the strong believer and vegan athlete most: "If you look at Gary Hunt or Orlando Duque, both of them are so mentally strong! They are so cool under pressure and time after time they keep their heads and rise to the occasion. We are a sport that thrives on a calm mind and a controlled heart rate and these guys are the best in the biz!"
After a shaky start to the season, Englishman Gary Hunt is definitely on top of his game and is aiming for his fourth season victory. In a location where he's achieved a ten five times, the highest note from the judges in only three dives in 2015, the World Series record holder with 28 wins out of 54 competitions will be hard to beat. The 'brilliant Brit's' closest competitors are Mexico's Jonathan Paredes and the surprise improver from the United States, Andy Jones, currently second and third in the overall standings before the midway stop in Italy. And never rule out a legend like Orlando Duque, who according to Rachelle Simpson, might "have a wee bit of super powers" diving at this level at the age of 41.
For the competition on August 28, a huge crowd is expected to pack this iconic place, where the take-off spot is a private rooftop terrace and the male and female athletes have to enter the platforms 27m and 21m above the Adriatic Sea through a private living room.
Watch It Live
This event will be LIVE on August 28 from 1.50 PM GMT 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
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.
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 FOX Sports 1 at 8am (ET) on September 25.