After 21 months without a competition, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series returned in dramatic style in Saint-Raphaël, France, this weekend. Romanian wildcard diver Catalin Preda produced a magnificent display from 27m to score his first-ever victory in the men's competition, while four-time champion Rhiannan Iffland was imperious once again in the women's contest.
Preda, appearing at only his sixth stop since his debut in 2018, began the final day of diving in third place after Friday's first two rounds. With the sun blazing and the sea calm and flat on the Cote D'Azur, the 29-year-old produced two immaculate dives to not only pierce the Mediterranean Sea, but also the heart of Gary Hunt, who was making his first appearance for France on home soil.
Watch the full replay of the 2021 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series season opener in the player below:
Finals – France
Always looking for strong competition, the 37-year-old record champion is finally feeling the force of the Romanian high divers on his heels, as Constantin Popovici finished in third place to complete the first men's podium of the year.
"It feels really good," said Preda. "It paid off, the long wait, all the preparation. I started with a third place back in Bosnia and fast forward to three years later, we're here in Southern France and I managed to climb up the ladder and it feels pretty good. Thank you Saint-Raphaël."
For Iffland, it was business as usual despite the longest break in the history of the sport. Back in 2019, the Australian produced the first-ever perfect season, with seven wins out of seven, and if anything during the hiatus she's moved onto yet another level. The 80th World Series event since its introduction in France's La Rochelle in 2009 marked the ninth victory in a row across three seasons for the Australian record-breaker.
"I'm super stoked with this event and I just want to keep that rhythm for the rest of the season," said Iffland. "I didn’t realise that I'd come close to a personal best and I actually smashed the score. Standing up on the top of the platform and looking out and having everyone cheering, that's the moment that I realised 'damn, I missed this'. This is why I'm here, this is why I do it."
Incredibly strong performances throughout the field of 12 men and 12 women during the restart of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series underlined the determination of the divers to come back strong after the forced break.
With a debutant wildcard diver in second place in the women's category and an invited athlete in fourth in the men's – Spain's Carlos Gimeno, who performed two world-first armstand dives in the optional rounds – the up-and-coming talent signals a bright future for high diving.
After a strong showing in this brand-new location on the French Riviera, with the season's first two 10s from the judges for Gary Hunt and a personal best for 29-year-old Iffland, the 24 athletes of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series will be back on centre stage in eight weeks' time for the first appearance in Oslo, Norway on August 14.
Check out the full results from France here.
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