With four different winners in five events in the men’s and podium finishes for all eight female competitors in South America, the 2017 World Series has certainly lived up to its billing as the most unpredictable season ever.
Six contenders are still in the fight for the overall titles when the stage is set for an unforgettable final showdown in a location that is only just shaking off the last remnants of winter. Pressure and nerves combined with the cold weather and bone-chilling water temperatures just add to the excitement when everything comes down to the final dives of the most tightly contested World Series ever and one or two brand new champions could well be crowned beside the beautiful Chile waterfalls.
“The first one is a shock, afterwards you already know what to expect,” says Blake Aldridge, who recently scored his first victory in four years at Hell’s Gate in Texas and sits in third place overall going into the final event. “I watch everyone struggling with the freezing cold, the noise of the waterfall and the spray, that gives me a little bit of confidence where I see blood a little bit and I think ‘okay, this is my chance to maybe get up there and be confident while everybody else is scared and worried.” In the three-way battle alongside fellow Brit Gary Hunt and Mexico’s Jonathan Paredes, the 35-year-old Olympic finalist looks set to achieve his best ever overall result.
While for the Brit diving into cold water feels like an instant ice bath, others need to adjust their diving list to the unusual conditions of diving next to a waterfall cascading down. “It’s a little difficult being right next to a waterfall,” explains American Steven LoBue, “for me to count my rotations I need to hear it, I hear the wind pass my ears and when there is something really loud I’m scared I’ll miss it. So I did make my list just a bit easier for this competition.”
In the women’s, an injury to defending champion Rhiannan Iffland in Mostar opened up the door for fellow Australian Helena Merten and Mexico’s Adriana Jimenez, and with only 80 points now separating them, the stage is set for a tight and exciting final battle.
Iffland, seemingly cruising to her second title in as many seasons after three wins in four stops, was stopped in her tracks by a knee injury, but a five-week break before the final may have just saved her chances of retaining the title: “I strained both my ACL ligaments in Mostar,” explains Iffland. “Since then, I’ve just been pushing little by little and training to get back to normal. In the last five days I’ve started diving again, so I’m going in confident and hopefully a little mind over matter will get me a positive result.”
Going into 2017’s final dives from up to 27m, cliff diving’s best are challenged by the conditions beside the Riñinahue Waterfalls at the foot of the Andes. This remote location in the heart of Chile’s Northern Patagonia provides the perfect setting for the coronation of the 2017 champions. Though Gary Hunt and Rhiannan Iffland lead, and both remain the favourites to return home once more with the coveted King Kahekili Trophy, it’s all up for grabs in the defining last event of this most unpredictable season.
View photos from the practice session in Chile:
Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series
Since 2009, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has provided a platform for exhilarating action and dives of ever-growing complexity. The series features elite athletes as well as young up-and-coming talent and a Women’s World Series was introduced in 2014. In 2017 the sport’s best athletes will once again leap, twist and somersault from breathtaking heights with no protection, except their concentration, skill and physical control during six competitions around the world.
WATCH IT LIVE
This competition will be LIVE on October 21 from 3.15pm local time (6.15pm GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV and Facebook. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. Find out more at about.redbull.tv.
Press release courtesy of Red Bull Cliff Diving.