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It was his comeback competition and the Colombian began exactly where he ended last year: on top of the podium receiving the winner's trophy. In a thrilling head-to-head battle from 27 metres, reigning World Series champion Gary Hunt was the lucky loser and the last diver to go through to the final at the season opener on the island of Corsica. More than 1,200 people on boats saw Steven LoBue, from the United States, take his first ever second place, with Czech diver Michal Navratil completing the first top three.

Only the ankle brace on Duque’s right foot recalls last April’s injury; the performance of the 37-year-old has by no means suffered from the long competition break. Duque started his first World Series competition in nine months strongly and decided all four rounds in his favour. Solid scores between 7.5 and 9 from the five judges for all his dives amounted to a total of 462.00 points. “I didn’t want to come back and disappoint - I’ve worked really hard and I knew that if I at least got to the level that I was at last year it could be good. I know there are a lot of guys trying to pull away from me but I know I have the experience and the level to be at the top of the competition,” says the nine-time world champion in a first statement. One who has definitely made that next step is last year’s rookie Steven LoBue. The 27-year-old got the highest score for a single dive – 140 points for his third-round back triple somersaults with three twists pike – and finished seven points behind Duque (455 pts). 69.15 points separated the third placed Czech Republic athlete Michal Navratil (385.85 pts) from the American LoBue.

The new head-to-head format challenged two-time World Series winner Gary Hunt from England. After a moderate start he was forced into a direct battle with podium finisher Navratil and only made it to the final round with the help of the ‘lucky loser’ rule: the top seven after three rounds and the best placed loser of the pairings qualify for the finale. He missed the podium by 3.5pts and placed fourth. Tied after the two head-to-head rounds, Hassan Mouti (wildcard, FRA) and Kent De Mond (USA) both advanced, expanding the final round to nine athletes.

Perfect blue skies, a moderate breeze and slightly choppy waves were the basic conditions for the first of seven meets for the world’s cliff diving elite on the southern tip of the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Around 110 boats braved the seesaw and paid their tribute to the impressive three-second flights off the 27m platform on the remnants of the Saint François canon base overlooking the Strait of Bonifacio.

In only two weeks’ time the next stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series will be hosted in Grimstad, Norway, where the eleven permanent and three wildcards divers will speed up to 85kph on their way down into the Skagerrak Strait.

RESULTS STOP 1, CORSICA

1 Orlando Duque COL 462.00 pts
2 Steven LoBue USA 455.00 pts
3 Michal Navratil CZE 385.85 pts
4 Gary Hunt UK 382.80 pts
5 Cyrille Oumedjkane FRA 362.90 pts
6 Kent De Mond USA 355.10 pts
7 Anatoliy Shabotenko (wildcard) UKR 353.30 pts
8 Artem Silchenko RUS 328.75 pts
9 Hassan Mouti (wildcard) FRA 262.00 pts DNF
10 Alain Kohl LUX 247.40 pts
11 David Colturi USA 240.30 pts

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