Rhiannan Iffland of Australia cruised into a familiar lead on day one of competition at the final stop of 2019 in Bilbao, Spain, and now stands on the cusp of completing the first perfect season in World Series history. In the men's, it was American Andy Jones who leaped into the lead after two rounds for the first time since Dubai in 2016, an event where he famously went on to secure his one and only victory.
Iffland, who had already wrapped up her fourth consecutive title three weeks ago in Mostar, displayed unerring precision once again from the 21m platform as she targets a seventh win on the spin this season. Should she finish the job on Saturday in the Nervión river, the 28-year-old will complete the perfect season of victories, a feat that no man or woman has achieved before.
"So far so good," said Iffland following her second-round dive. "I've been tired coming into today, so I'm going to rest up and try and pull out the big guns for tomorrow. It feels really strange going into an event and knowing I already secured the title. I'm trying not to let that change anything, because ultimately I want to finish strong; but there's a little bit less pressure and I'm able to enjoy it that little more."
Following Iffland in the standings after two dives are Colombia's Maria Paula Quintero, whose impressive form this season could see her qualify for a permanent spot in 2020, and Canadian Lysanne Richard in third place.
It's been three long years since Jones led the way after two rounds in the men's, but the tall American was the star performer from 27m on Friday afternoon. In front of his watching parents, the 34-year-old put down a river-ripping second dive to earn three 9s from the judges.
"It's really exciting to be here in Bilbao for the final," said Jones. "It's been a long season, a tough season, a lot of challenges and I'm really excited to be leading after the first two rounds and can't wait to come in tomorrow strong."
The omens look promising for the American, who went on to score his only victory under the Dubai lights in 2016 following that second-round lead. Interestingly, that stop was also a season finale, while it was also the last time that Hunt and Iffland had wrapped up the title before the final day.
Hunt himself sits in third place overnight, with Mexico's Jonathan Paredes between them in second. Whatever happens on Saturday, the Brit will collect his eighth King Kahekili trophy, but there's no doubt he would love to celebrate with a final win in front of his family.
"It's been hard in the run up to this competition," admitted Hunt. "I've had ups and downs, but I felt great today, I really enjoyed myself up there. My mother and my sister are here and I dove well, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Standings after Round 2 in Bilbao
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 158.70pts.
2- Maria Paula Quintero (W) COL – 145.15
3- Lysanne Richard CAN – 144.80
4- Xantheia Pennisi (W) AUS – 143.10
5- Jessica Macaulay GBR – 140.40
6- Iris Schmidbauer (W) GER – 131.30
7- Eleanor Townsend Smart USA – 128.55
8- Yana Nestsiarava BLR – 118.60
9- Celia Fernandez (W) ESP – 112.45
10- Jaki Valente (W) BRA – 107.45
1- Andy Jones USA – 165.80pts.
2- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 165.60
3- Gary Hunt GBR – 164.20
4- Aidan Heslop (W) GBR – 157.80
5- Orlando Duque (W) COL 153.60
6- Blake Aldridge GBR – 153.00
7- David Colturi USA – 152.20
8- Michal Navratil CZE – 151.80
9- Oleksiy Prygorov UKR – 150.60
10- Alessandro De Rose (W) ITA – 149.60
11- Slavik Kolesnikov (W) UKR – 148.80
12- Constantin Popovici ROU – 148.40
13- Miguel Garcia (W) COL – 140.00
14- Owen Weymouth (W) GBR – 130.80
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