Polignano a Mare, what a beautiful and iconic destination. It’s a perfect spot and everyone is so welcoming! It was so great to be back in familiar territory – 2023 marked the 10th time the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series had been to Polignano a Mare. The whole place and the event itself feels like its own tradition that comes with the sport.
I think it’s one of the most dear places for cliff diving fans and spectators. We always have an impressive amount of spectators (40,000 this year) who are very passionate about it and very well connected with those particular cliffs.
As a diver, being connected directly to a cliff, a rock or a balcony – as is the case in Polignano a Mare – is truly special, unique and exciting for all of us on tour. Competing in these places is definitely challenging, but something that’s super special. Only a handful of people get to do it. So I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that we’re lucky, and the whole experience is so enriching in terms of an experience, a career and a life path.
A good day is a happy day
The first part of this season hadn’t quite started as I was hoping for and I had some ground to make up. But I feel more on-mission since Italy and my third-place finish. I went into the weekend feeling as though a podium wasn’t far away and podiums definitely help with confidence building. I prepared and had to work on fine-tuning my dives on the day, and yes – I got my podium finish.
A win is still what I’m going for, of course. It’s the sweetest thing you can get and what I’m always striving for. I think I have what it takes to reach the top step of the podium and I’ll keep working hard and be as disciplined as possible. But also, it’s still important to remember to enjoy the day, and keep everything in perspective. It was a good day, and a good day is a happy day.
That unique touch
Places such as Polignano a Mare really define cliff diving for what it actually is. High diving has its own challenges and it’s more standardised – competing in an enclosed space, diving into a pool, with man-made scaffolding and structures put in place. But whenever you’re outside, you’re subject to whatever nature throws at you that day and in that moment when you’re up on the platform.
Nature is, of course, a magnificent challenge. It’s not something you can quarrel with – you really have to do your best to adapt. The more versatile you are, the more you’re able to adapt and the easier your life will be. Learning and living with this knowledge definitely comes with experience. I think that the more you’re exposed to uncomfortable situations, the more you grow familiar with your responses and how you react.
This applies to pretty much everything in life. If you keep an open mind and let things just be in the moment, it will definitely work to your advantage. I’ve managed to develop a deep sense of versatility, reactivity and adaptability. They’re very important qualities and to be able to use those to my advantage definitely gives me an edge over the competition.
That, combined with a solid diving foundation and competitive diving background enriched by my detour through the artistic industry – where I had to be responsive and work in harmony with many other people without compromising the integrity of the performance – all of those things are serving me well right now. Having clarity of mind in high-intensity, high-stress situations, and knowing how to keep my heart rate down and stress levels in manageable parameters, is certainly on my advantages list.
Maximising my potential
I can’t help but notice that the best performances arise when an athlete is in a relaxed, loose, yet sharp state. That’s when they maximise their potential. It’s been great just observing my peers. I like people watching, seeing what cues and stimuli they react to. It’s a very interesting social experiment!
My mindfulness journey started a few years ago, and it’s something that’s still unfolding
Mindfulness is a huge part of what I do, in my approach to life and sports competition in general. It’s ingrained in my lifestyle and my pre-dive rituals. I try to keep an open mind in everything that I do. This focus-orientated approach that I’m constantly working on allows me to keep evolving and grow every day, whether it’s in my sport or figuring out my next big adventure. An imaginative mind, to me, is limitless because whatever you put your mind to is possible, as long as you keep exploring and experimenting with different ways to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.
I truly believe shooting as high as you can imagine and making the best of what’s thrown at you can only create a positive and memorable experience. We get to live that at every stop throughout the year, but I also aim to cultivate this approach every day. I want to keep looking for what my potential can deliver. I want to exploit my qualities to the maximum and keep delivering exciting stuff for sure.
Evolution is constant
I came into the sport at a turning point back in 2018, performing a dive that was thought to be impossible. Looking back on that now, five years later, and seeing how much the sport has grown and evolved can only make you excited for what the future can hold. I think there will definitely be new generations coming with different mindsets and different ideas, maybe at that point I’ll be the one who thinks ‘Hey, that might not be possible’ and I’ll be proven wrong!
I think the sport will keep growing and evolving and the next generation of cliff divers will bring new ideas, new methods and new approaches. They’ll make the sport even more beautiful and take it to new heights, not necessarily literal heights, but metaphorical heights. It looks very exciting and I’d like to be part of this process for as long as possible.
There’s definitely way more to come from me in the future and a lot of exciting things too. I’m already looking forward to our next stop in Japan – Takachiho looks incredible, like a challenging and unique competition!
Watch Catalin Preda in action at the final stop of the 2023 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on Red Bull TV as the season wraps up in Auckland on January 28.
Be sure to download the free Red Bull TV app and watch the cliff diving action on all your devices!
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