Well he did it again. Gary Hunt, ‘the brilliant Brit’, was in spectacular form, seizing first prize and making his lead almost unassailable.
The biggest crowd of spectators ever crowded into the narrow and ancient port – 70,000 people! It was worth it. They were treated to a rare spectacle of superb diving in difficult conditions, but a magnificent setting.
The wind was blowing hard which was an added danger for the 12 divers to factor into their dives and because of the challenging conditions the weekend’s competition was reduced to three rounds, with the athletes having the option to change their dive at short notice.
Hunt thrilled the crowd with first a backflip and then a front quadruple somersault with one and a half twists. The dive was faultless and earned him three 10’s from the judges, giving him a 22 point lead over his nearest rival Czech Michal Navratil who followed up his third-placed finish in Athens by going one better in La Rochelle.
Do you remember from my previous La Rochelle article that there were 3 new wildcards in this competition? One of them was UK’s Blake Aldridge who had an impressive debut as he became the first wildcard to make it through to the final round. He dislodged perennial challenger Artem Silchenko with a first ever back armstand on a 27.5 metre-high platform. This dive, exposed as it was to a 60kph southwesterly wind earned its just rewards in the second round.
In a tightly fought tactical battle, Luxembourgian Alain Kohl pipped Slava Polyeschuk (Ukraine) to third place on the podium.
The following video gives you a bit on an insight into this extreme sport. As you can imagine, performing perfect aerial manoeuvres from such a height requires concentration, enormous skill and courage.
Next up it’s Malcesine, Italy on the 24th July. Malcesine is in the province of Verona on Lake Garda about 120 km northwest of Venice and 40km north west of Verona.
There are still 2 more competitions after Italy. Here’s a brief reminder where the competition has been, and where it’s still got to go…
photos courtesy of Vincent Curutchet/Red Bull Cliff Diving