England’s 20-year-old Aidan Heslop cemented his title credentials with another stunning victory at the sixth stop of the 2022 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Sisikon on Sunday, while Rhiannan Iffland edged a step closer to glory with her fifth win of the season in the Swiss sunshine.
Heslop, who is enjoying a fairy-tale first season as a permanent diver on the tour, held his nerve with the final dive of the day to make it two wins and two third-place finishes from six stops this year.
“I’ve been in this position before, first place going into the last round in Boston, and that was my first ever win. To be in the same position again I just had some anticipation about what could happen,” said Heslop. “The same thing happened again. I knew that last dive needed to be good and I hit it the way I know I can. I’m just so happy.
“I wouldn’t call one win a fluke in this competition nowadays, but to have a second one really puts my name in the books I think.”
Consistency was key for the Brit as he produced four high quality dives over the two competition days, including the mammoth Forward 4 Somersaults 31⁄2 Twists Pike which propelled him to a comfortable 40-point victory over his nearest rival, Gary Hunt.
The result lifts the youngster into second place in the overall standings, just 24 points behind Romania’s Catalin Preda, who finished fourth in Sisikon, the 90th stop of the World Series since its introduction in 2009. With just two stops to go, France’s nine-time champion Hunt sits a mere six points further back in what is now one of the tightest and most exciting title fights in years.
“It’s pretty tight at the top with these other divers, so to get a win has really bumped me up there. I’ve just got to dive the same way I did today in the next two competitions,” added Heslop.
Completing the Swiss podium in only his second-ever World Series appearance was American wildcard James Lichtenstein, whose accomplished performance from 27m hints at a bright future in the sport.
In the women’s competition, Australia’s Iffland was again pushed hard by Molly Carlson, but a mistake from the Canadian in the third round allowed the ‘Dominator from Down Under’ to cruise to another straightforward victory as close to 10,000 spectators packed the venue over the two days of competition.
“It’s getting closer and closer to the end of the Series and I kind of challenged myself in a different way with a new dive today and changed my format up. Obviously I’m super excited that it paid off and to finish on a dive like that, I’m absolutely wrapped,” said the 31-year-old.
“People were telling me I hadn’t won in Switzerland and was it a box I wanted to tick. In the back of my mind I was thinking it would be really cool, but I just wanted to put another good result on the board for this year and enjoy being back in a natural location.”
The win in Switzerland adds another number to Iffland’s already astonishing record; it’s now five wins in a row this season and 28 victories in 35 starts since her debut in 2016. There may be two stops to go, but with a 210-point lead over Carlson in the overall standings, a sixth title will be in the bag if she finishes above the Canadian at the next event in Polignano a Mare.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on, but I guess that’s the goal – go in strong, wrap it up and then I guess enjoy Sydney a little bit more. We’ll see, we’ll see,” Iffland added.
Rounding off the top three at Lake Lucerne was Iffland’s fellow Aussie, Xantheia Pennisi, who secured her second podium of the season. The 23-year-old occupies fourth place in the overall standings, just 18 points behind Canada’s Jessica Macaulay and American Eleanor Smart, who share third spot.
Permanent diver Constantin Popovici (ROU) is not listed on the results list as he was injured in training and could not compete. Two more athletes, Germany’s Anna Bader and Matthew Cooper from the US, had bad landings and could also not finish the competition.
From the beautiful cliffs of Sisikon, the divers will barely have a moment to catch their breath before heading to the place where houses rise from the rocks, Polignano a Mare, where this season’s penultimate competition will be contested in front a raucous Italian crowd in just one week’s time.
Results – Stop #6, Sisikon, SUI WOMEN
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 364.90pts. 2- Molly Carlson CAN – 326.90
3- Xantheia Pennisi AUS – 325.40
4- Iris Schmidbauer (W) GER – 308.35 5- Yana Nestsiarava IAT – 300.70
6- Jessica Macaulay CAN – 292.60
7- Eleanor Smart USA – 284.90
8- Elisa Cosetti (W) ITA – 278.00
9- Meili Carpenter (W) USA – 270.05 10- Maria Paula Quintero COL – 245.25 11- Aimee Harrison (W) CAN – 221.20 12- Anna Bader (W) GER – 93.20
1- Aidan Heslop GBR – 452.00pts.
2- Gary Hunt FRA – 412.15
3- James Lichtenstein (W) USA – 396.60 4- Catalin Preda ROU – 395.60
5- Nikita Fedotov IAT– 352.65
6- Miguel Garcia (W) COL – 341.60
7- Oleksiy Prygorov UKR – 335.55
8- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 303.95
9- Artem Silchenko (W) IAT – 292.20
10- Matthias Appenzeller (W) SUI – 260.35 11- Jean-David Duval (W) SUI – 222.20 12- Matthew Cooper (W) USA – 218.70
Standings (after 6 of 8 stops) WOMEN
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 1160pts. 2- Molly Carlson CAN – 950
3- Eleanor Smart USA – 614
3- Jessica Macaulay CAN – 614
5- Xantheia Pennisi AUS – 596
1- Catalin Preda ROU – 870pts.
2- Aidan Heslop GBR – 846
3- Gary Hunt FRA – 840
4- Constantin Popovici ROU – 609 5- Nikita Fedotov (W) RUS – 512