Reigning champion Gary Hunt is the man they will all have to beat when the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series returns in Colombia this weekend, but all home eyes will be firmly focused on their own hero.
Gary Hunt of the UK with the series trophy after the seventh and final stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Ik Kil cenote, Yucatan, Mexico
- Photographer Credit Romina Amato/Red Bull Cliff Diving
Just over six months after Britain’s Hunt captured his fourth title, the world’s best are convening in Cartagena to kick off another season of jaw-dropping bravery and physical prowess.
It’s the first time the World Series has hosted an event in Colombia and so the expectation around the performance of home favourite Orlando Duque will be at fever pitch. Duque edged out Hunt in the first Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series staged in 2009, but in recent years the shoe has been on the other foot, with the Briton dominating the world’s premier series.
Hunt has spent the close season training hard, has kept his programme of dives fairly restricted and is hoping his intense preparation and focus will see him off to a great start. ‘One of my main goals is to win the first competition and start the season strongly,’ Hunt told redbullcliffdiving.com in an interview earlier this month.
‘Last year I began learning a new dive and it affected my performances early on. I’ve heard rumours and seen videos of a few other divers preparing new dives, but I think I’m going to let them worry about their new dives and I’m going to go there and try and be more relaxed because I know my dives.’
Accelerating from 0 to 85kph in a matter of three seconds from a height of 27 meters, divers from across the world will be putting their bodies on the line in the spectacular sporting competition. Divers like Mexico’s Jonathan Paredes, Czech Michal Navratil and American Andy Jones, who all came through qualifying in February, will be aiming to knock Hunt from his perch.
Gary Hunt of the UK dives from 27 metres off the cliff face of Islet Vila Franca do Campo during the fifth stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Azores, Portugal
- Photographer Credit Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool
Hunt missed out on victory in the final event in Bilbao last season to Russian Artem Silchenko but he had built up a sizeable enough cushion during a phenomenal year that he was safely clear of the rest of the field. Duque was back in fourth place in the overall ranking and will be hoping to lift the spirits of the huge home crowd expected to watch him perform at Cartagena, dubbed the ‘undisputed Queen of the Caribbean coast.’
Hunt, meanwhile, says his closest challenger may come from closer to home in the shape of fellow Briton Blake Aldridge. ‘He looks like he’s been working really hard in the off-season and has got two new dives. I don’t know if he’ll be doing them both this year, but if he does then he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.’
This season’s series consists of eight stages, including three stops featuring female competition in the USA, Portugal and Italy.
CALENDAR & LOCATIONS
April 25 | Cartagena, COLOMBIA
May 17 | La Rochelle, FRANCE
May 30 | Possum Kingdom Lake, TX, USA
June 20 | Copenhagen, DENMARK
July 18 | S. Miguel, Azores, PORTUGAL
August 15 | Mostar, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
September 13 | Polignano a Mare, ITALY
September 26 | Bilbao, SPAIN