After eight competitions, almost 300 dives and 7,488m freefall at 85km/h in the three seconds flight the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2009, which started in early May in France, was hosted in the birthplace of competitive sports for the final showdown. With physical mastery and pure aesthetics on the platform, and crackling tension among the spectators, the traditional sport of cliff diving leapt into a new era. And it was nine times world champion Orlando Duque who was crowned winner after his fourth place finish in Athens on September 20, taking the World Series Champion title in a photo finish.
Over 8,000 fans witnessed Englishman Gary Hunt (334.80pts) win the eighth competition at Lake Vouliagmeni in the Greek capital ahead of Russia’s Artem Silchenko (312.50pts) and first time podium finisher Kent de Mond (304.95pts) from the United States.
“I have been competing for so many years and pressure is something I am used to, but I have never seen a fight like this." said Duque. "This is not just another title, it’s the one I had to fight most for! After my second dive I was still out of the title but I knew I can improve and get the fourth place I needed. This title results from my long-term strategy of doing consistent dives the best way I can. I am not just going to lean back with this title, I know I have to react and I will,” said the Colombian, the first winner of this unique sport series. With Duque and Hunt both having 127pts in the overall standings, it was the number of victories that decided in favour of the South American. Artem Silchenko from Russia took the third overall position with 111pts.
Southampton-based diver Gary Hunt, who is the only diver in the world performing a triple quad (3 somersaults, 4 twists) – with a degree of difficulty of 6.2 classified as the most difficult dive so far – came up with another new dive for the final in Greece. In two out of three rounds the 25-year-old earned the highest score for his performance and claimed his second series win: “I am very happy because honestly I never thought I could win the title, but after the second round I almost had it in my hands. Things went really well for me. I was a bit nervous before my new dive but afterwards I knew I could finish in first place. This was a magic season for me and I think that the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is pushing the sport further! Now I will go back to the 10 metre platform and start preparing for the next year right away.”
As cliff diving originally derives from Olympic diving, the series’ grand final was hosted late Sunday afternoon in the amazing setting around Lake Vouliagmeni, the “sunken lake” just a stone throw away from Athen’s city center. It rounded up a well chosen collection of eight famous and well known diving spots as well as extraordinary natural and challenging urban venues. Each of them presented a unique location but had one thing in common: the athletes had to dive from the dizzying height of at least 26 metres – the average height of an eight storey building. During the dives their bodies were exposed to tremendous forces reaching 2-3 Gs, which is nine times stronger than when diving from a ten-meter tower.