Orlando Duque may have retired from his legendary cliff diving career back in 2019, but he has no plans on stepping away from the sport he graced with style and success for over 20 years. Now working as the Red Bull Cliff Diving Ambassador, he will remain a familiar face at the World Series for the foreseeable future, where his wealth of wisdom and experience will continue to be of great value to the athletes, the media and the whole cliff diving crew.
At each Red Bull Cliff Diving stop this season, the sport’s ponytailed pioneer will offer up a selection of interesting insights, opinions and predictions before the diving gets underway. We caught up with him on training day at Saint-Raphaël in France, where he was keeping a close eye on the divers as they prepare to compete for the first time in almost two years. Here’s what he had to say.
David [Colturi] looked super strong. Super, super strong. He hasn’t done his big dives yet, but watching him it’s like ‘ok, this guy is serious’.
Xantheia [Pennisi] has been working quite a lot with Rhiannan in Australia. They have a nice cliff near where they live and she’s looking good.
It’s hard to tell. Training looked good, but the pressure of competition could change things a little bit.
Pure rocks could level the field
There’s the off-the-cliff dive that kind of levels the field a little bit. You see some of the guys making mistakes and trying to adjust to the situation. That’s where I saw Gary make a couple of mistakes, also David made a couple of mistakes there.
Wildcards to watch
There’s a Canadian girl, Molly [Carlson], she looks really good. Very focused, very concentrated, no problems. She has a 20m platform at her pool in Canada, so she’s been training. If she can keep that going in the competition, I’m sure she has a really good chance.
For the men, Oleksiy [Prygorov] was a permanent diver before, now he’s a wildcard, but he has one of the biggest dive lists of all the guys. You don’t know what’s gonna happen; if he hits his dives that’s it, he could win. He has everything he needs. So I think those two could be the interesting wildcards.
Restrictions hard for ‘huggers’
The rest of the procedures become routine. Tests, masks, distancing, that’s just routine now. Everyone’s really mindful of the situation. Normally we're really close to each other, we’re huggers you know, so it’s just not normal for us.
But it looks like everyone has kept their fitness training up and hopefully mentally they can put it together during the competition and have a good event.
He did, of course he did
I couldn’t resist. I went out to the cliffs and did a 23m dive at the end of practice today. It felt really good. I like that connection with the rock, that connection with the dive, you know. It’s fun to watch the competition, but I kept looking at the rock and I was like ‘nah, I have to do a dive'.
I did go to the 27m platform but I looked down and I said ‘f*** no man, this is crazy, I’ll never jump from here again’. I guess it’s just a different mindset, you know. I’m not in that competition mode. The rocks though, it’s different. It wasn’t so high, it’s not on the main stage. I’ll probably go out and do one more tomorrow… and another one on Saturday!