Gary Hunt and Rhiannan Iffland maintained their winning form on a dramatic and barely believable day of high-quality action at the fourth stop of the 2021 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Downpatrick Head, Ireland.
The rugged Irish coast, notorious for serving up difficult diving conditions over the years, was no match for the cliff diving elite as they ripped into the Atlantic Sea with stunning precision again and again, breaking multiple records along the way.
Four-time champion Iffland, chasing a record-extending 11th consecutive World Series win in the women's class, was simply untouchable yet again. Beginning the third round in an unfamiliar third position, the Australian blew her rivals out of the water with a sensational 'perfect dive', earning five 10s from the judges – the highest score possible – for the first time in her glittering career. In becoming the first woman to achieve this feat, she also surpassed her own previous record for the highest single dive score.
Joining Iffland on the podium were Canada's Jessica Macaulay in second place and a fellow Australian, wildcard entry Xantheia Pennisi, who put on a career-best display to make the top three for the first time. Canada's Molly Carlson just missed out, taking fourth place after also earning one top note from the judges.
"It feels great to be on top of the podium once again," said Iffland. "I was feeding a little bit from my training partner Xantheia Pennisi as well. Coming into the last two rounds today it was neck and neck ,and I think I really ate up the pressure and I enjoyed it.
"That dive in warm up didn't go so well, so I decided I had to switch my mindset for the competition and made sure that I gave it my absolute all. I went through the water and went 'wow, that really worked'. I'm super stoked and I guess I've got to figure out ways to spice it up and keep pushing myself.
"I guess I can kind of relax a little bit now and enjoy the competitions a little bit more. Saying that, I still want to go out there and give it my all to break those scores again. This is what I'm aiming for next."
In the men's competition, Gary Hunt earned his 41st career victory, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story. Having earned three 10s himself in Saturday's second round, the Frenchman watched on as his rivals cranked up the pressure with a series of high-scoring dives in the third and fourth rounds.
Romania's Constantin Popovici, Hunt's closest competitor this season, began the glut of 10s by earning four of them for his third round dive. In the final round, British prodigy Aidan Heslop grabbed two, Italy's Alessandro De Rose picked up three, while the Spanish wildcard entry Carlos Gimeno wowed the crowd with a first-ever perfect handstand dive, becoming only the third man ever to receive perfect 10s from the judges.
It is testament to Hunt's character, ability and all-round mental strength that he managed to hold off this marauding challenge from the chasing pack to climb back on top of the podium. Popovici took second place, while De Rose made the top three for the first time since 2017.
"From Italy I expect fireworks," said Hunt after his win. "I feel like everyone is really getting into their stride. You've seen how many 10s have been awarded this competition and everyone is getting comfortable. It'll be really, really tough, but that's what I love about this sport. It's going to get tougher every year and let's hope to finish this season with a bang."
On a weekend that will go down in cliff diving history, a record 23 top notes were handed out, two perfect dives were recorded in a single stop for the first time ever and Gimeno became the first diver to ever perform a handstand dive directly off the rocks during the first round.
Following this pulsating performance, the world's best cliff divers will now head back to mainland Europe in just over a week's time, where they'll continue their fight for the King Kahekili trophy at the first stop of an Italian doubleheader in Puglia.
Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2021 Round 4 results
- Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) – 391.60 points
- Jessica Macaulay (CAN) – 343.80
- Xantheia Pennisi (W) (AUS) – 338.20
- Molly Carlson (CAN) – 316.80
- Eleanor Smart (USA) – 302.80
- Antonina Vyshyvanova (W) (UKR) – 289.85
- Meili Carpenter (W) (USA) – 269.30
- Jaki Valente (BRA) – 240.20
- Iris Schmidbauer (GER) – 179.75
- Adriana Jimenez (W) (MEX) – 110.00
- Gary Hunt (FRA) – 442.50 points
- Constantin Popovici (ROU) – 433.60
- Alessandro De Rose (ITA) – 419.55
- Carlos Gimeno (W) (ESP) – 395.40
- David Colturi (USA) – 393.10
- Michal Navratil (CZE) – 378.20
- Aidan Heslop (W) (GBR) – 368.15
- Steven LoBue (USA) – 343.65
- Sergio Guzman (W) (MEX) – 342.95
- Catalin Preda (W) (ROU) – 341.05
- Andy Jones (USA) – 333.70
Check out the full results from Downpatrick Head here.