Those of us baby boomer divers will fondly remember ABC’s Wide World of Sports annual presentation of high diving competitions, expecially the shows from the cliffs of Acapulco where daredevil divers had to launch themselves out far off slippery slopes in order to clear the jagged mountainside. The event favorite Mexican team divers always selected the classic ‘arched’ swan dive to the raucous applause of the home crowd.
Now fast forward 35 years later to an event that is in its’ third season and makes the cliffs of Acapulco look like a novice event. It’s the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series now taking place in exotic locales all over the world. The most recent contest was held in Athens, Greece from an 85 foot fixed platform extended off a mountainside over the waters of Lake Voulliagmeni. At this meet, the old front dive straight would not even be considered as it is a feet first only contest – but with a twist. Competitors use dives that can only be performed from 27 meters. They do a combination of dives that mostly end up the same way with a front somersault half twist finish so as to make lining up the entry much safer. Gone is the flying reverse somersault tuck that high divers used to do at state fairs. That one is now just too easy.
Today these elite pro high divers start out, for example, with a 5255D (Back 2.5 som with 2.5 twists pike) and at the finish of that add on a 5121D ( front one som with a 1/2 twist) also known as the old school term ‘barani’ so they are facing the mountain as they enter. Or do a 5337D (gainer 3 & 1/2 twister), as last year’s champion Orlando Duque uses, and end with the same barani only facing the other way. Orlando wishes he could have done this dive in Athens but had to watch from the shore with a broken ankle he suffered while on a parachuting adventure recently in Hawaii.
This opened the door for the other divers to have a chance at the awards stand. Such was the case for Gary Hunt of Great Brittain who secured his first victory of the season with a nearly flawless execution of a front 3 and a 1/2 with a full twist into the standard finish of a barani. This is a thrilling dive to watch as you never see this dive number (5172D) in even the highest level of international competition.
Things did not go as well for Hassan Mouti of France. In the first round, he was attempting an extremely difficult front quintuple somersault with the barani finish, got disoriented and suffered a very poor landing. In this type of event, the lifeguards are not on the beach, they are in the water wearing SCUBA gear forming a semi circle that divers land in the center of. He suffered a punctured lung, bruised ribs and was taken to a hospital for observation.
While he did not experience the disorientation that Mouti did, Kent DeMond of the US landed a bit short on his first dive, a 5255D into a barani finish. When you are up 85 feet and hitting speeds most divers will never feel, a bit short can be devastating. The guards needed to float him on his back to shore where he was diagnosed with a very sore neck.He did not make the finals (nor did American Steven LoBue) as they make a cut to the top six divers after round one. These six perform one more dive as two rounds is enough from that dizzying height.
Louganis Serves as Guest Judge
The athlete considered to still be the greatest Olympic diver of all time, Greg Louganis, made his first appearance at this series as a judge. While not needing a resume to convince the meet organizers he is qualified, Greg does have his FINA International Judging Certification that he completed during last year’s Junior Olympic World Championships held at the University of Arizona in Tucson (along with yours truly). Before the event, he took some time to go to the pool used for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He and champion Gary Hunt did a workout together where Hunt uses the 10 meter to practice his lead ups for the 27 meter event. Greg was there seeing if he still ‘has it’ and showed he did on his signature flying front 1 and 1/2 pike as well as inviting Hunt to do some synchro dives with him. Expect to see Greg at future Red Bull Cliff Diving events.
The series continues next month with a stop in La Rochelle, France on June 18. This is a return visit for the divers to a stunning venue where the competitors dive from the same 85 foot platform only this time it is attached to an ancient castle in front what could be 30,000 spectators, as was the case last season.
The Diving Examiner will report on that event as well as all the Red Bull Cliff diving series meets where the grand champion will be crowned in September in Yalta, Ukraine.
For complete results, more photos and videos of this and past events, go to www.redbull.com.