By Brian Yalung
Gary Hunt and Rhiannan Iffland topped the men’s and women’s divisions respectively in the first leg of the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving held at the Small Lagoon in El Nido, Philippines on Saturday, April 13.
Hunt, a 7-time winner of the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series, amassed a total score of 427.25 and was way ahead of the field. Constantin Popovici came in at second with a total score of 409.40 while Jonathan Paredes, the winner back in 2017 ended third with a total of 408.05.
“It’s just really special to show off the hard work I am doing. The competition is getting tougher and tougher and any of the divers could have won. But I just showed my experience and managed to stay consistent to take the win,” said Hunt in an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin Sports Online.
And while his triumph is something to cherish, Hunt knows that things can only get tougher.
“Absolutely. I mean maybe I may be the most consistent but in any competition, there are many divers who can win. As you can see, Constantin and Jonathan were very close behind. There was also a Ukrainian diver too. So if you put all these divers together, they will be very difficult to beat,” said Hunt.
In the women’s division, Iffland likewise got stiff competition from Yana Nestsiarava and Lysanne Richard. The 27-year-old Australian finished with a total score of 329.25, besting the scores of Nestsiarava who had 319.35 and Richard 309.70.
“It’s an incredible feeling to take out the first stop and to it in a place like this – a cliff diver’s paradise,” said Iffland who nabbed her fourth World Series title.
Iffland, the 2016 Cliff Diving World Series champion, said that she did not feel like she was competing because of the location.
“I didn’t feel so much pressure because the location was so beautiful and so enjoyable. I didn’t really feel I was competing (in a way). Going into the last round, I didn’t really think that I was going to win,” said Iffland.
Four-time Olympic Gold Medal Diver and Sports Director Greg Louganis was impressed with the showing of the participants and added that it was the perfect place to hold the event.
“I was very impressed with what I saw here. I know some of the divers were trying new dives and that is always terrifying, it’s scary and you’ll be wondering how it’s gonna go,” said Louganis.
The 59-year-old added that the setting was perfect since it was held in a controlled environment that would be beneficial to the divers.
“I think this was a very good place to hold it because we did not have the raucous crowd, they can be a little loud. This way, it enabled them (the divers) to get more accustomed to what it is going to feel like, how they can see their spots,” he explained.
Looking ahead, Louganis admits that he expects better competition moving forward.
“I like what I saw. This is just the first competition of the series. I suspect it’s just going to get a lot better,” Louganis ended.