ATHENS: The crowd goes silent as Gary Hunt makes his way across a 27-meter high platform. They then let out a collective gasp as he freefalls into Lake Vouliagmeni – executing his signature front quad with 1.5 twists along the way, ultimately earning himself first place at the third stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2011.
“It feels incredible,” Hunt, who was representing the UK, said. “I didn’t dive that well in the first and second stops, so I’m very happy to have won today.”
In its third edition in 2011, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, held between March and September, is bringing together the world’s best high divers competing for the title of World Series champion in seven challenging competitions.
The competition’s third stop was held in Athens last week, around the so-called “Sunken Lake” amid breathtaking scenery and ancient monuments.
The high profile competition drew crowds from all over the Greek capital, blocking highways leading to the venue. Crowds gathered around the lake and on top of the surrounding cliffs to watch divers demonstrate bold stunts as they plunged into the heart-shaped lake.
Despite the daunting view from atop the cliff, Hunt said the adrenaline rush he draws from the crowd and the competition helps calm his nerves.
“Yesterday I found it quite difficult to get into the competition vibe. But today there was a great atmosphere and straight from the first dive I felt good and started diving well,” he said.
Hunt said he was nervous however during his training only a day earlier, when he tried the dive for the first time.
“It was very nerve-wracking diving at this height for the first time, but during the competition it is exciting,” he told Daily News Egypt.
Divers generally do not train at these heights, but rather dive 10–20 meters into pools. They only get a chance to put the 27-meter dive together when they arrive at the competition’s venue.
This is how French diver Hassan Mouti sustained an injury as he attempted to try an ambitious new dive – a front quint somersault with a half twist tuck – during his training. Mouti was transferred to a hospital immediately and diagnosed with a minor lung rupture, forcing him not to compete the next day.
“When you see people crash as it happened to Hassan Mouti, it does scare you, but you have to try and block that out,” Hunt said.
The 26-year-old diver started diving in 2006 in Italy “in a small tank of water with an 18-meter ladder,” where he was spotted by Australian diver Steve Black who asked him if he wanted to compete.
With his first victory in the 2011 edition of the World Series, Hunt also takes the overall lead with 49 points, ahead of Red Bull’s Orlando Duque (40 pts), who had to withdraw from the Series due to injury.
Michal Navratil from Czech Republic came in third place this year, with Russia’s Artem Silchenko finishing in a solid second place, moving up to rank four in the overall standings.
The competition kicked off in March in Rapa Nui, and returned to Mexico in April. The competition made its first visit to Europe in Greece and will then head to France and Italy in successive months. After a trip to Boston, the United States, in August, the grand final will be hosted by the Ukraine on September 4.
Red Bull Cliff Diving competitions are judged by five international judges with scores awarded according to the degree of difficulty and execution of the dive.
Hunt poses with Michal Navratil from Czech Republic (L) in third place and Artem Silchenko from Russia (R) in second place.