Top level competition, from a 27 meter high platform. Expectations were confirmed for the start of the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series 2009, with 30,000 spectators attending this sport’s French début in La Rochelle. In the end the Ukranian Andrey Ignatenko’s experience came out on top.
On a bank holiday, France heralded the start of what is held to be the most complete Cliff Diving circuit of all time in befitting style. The fact that this is the first competition of its kind disputed on Gallic soil caused a great stir with the public, which turned out in droves. Their efforts were amply rewarded by the intense competition between the elite of athletes invited for this challenge: 12 fixtures and two special guests (wildcards) representing 9 countries.
The Ukranian Andrey Ignatenko, who at 44 years old is the oldest athlete in the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series 2009, was the great sensation in La Rochelle. He began timidly with a reverse somersault, gained ground with a front double somersault and swept everyone away with a back double somersault. “I am very happy to have won, but my priority is safety first and then results. I have made thousands of jumps throughout my career and this experience has turned out to be my trump card”, he said after tasting the winner’s Champagne. Orlando Duque (Columbia), a living legend in this sport with nine world titles, took second place on the podium, swiftly followed by one of the representatives of a new generation of athletes. 24 year old Gary Hunt (United Kingdom) stood out for his innovation: “I tried out two new and very difficult dives here, I banked heavily on consistency and I managed to evolve well throughout the competition”.
The whole of the action was centred around the platform mounted 27 metres up St. Nicholas’ Tower, with the athletes making three dives into water which was little more than five metres deep. In less than three seconds, each athlete gave the best of their technique, grace and style – before plunging into the chilly Atlantic waters, which are about 16º C at this time of year.
Coming originally from Hawaii, cliff diving has undergone a number of changes up to the present day. Many of the athletes who specialise in this radical sport have come up through traditional diving in swimming pools before raising their sights to Cliff Diving. As in the Olympic sport, dives are judged by a jury of five judges on a scale from 1 to 10 points, taking into account the degree of perfection and difficulty of the manoeuvres.
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