Gary Hunt scored 10s with his final dive to earn a record-extending 10th Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series title at a thrilling season showdown in Sydney, Australia. In the women’s competition, Rhiannan Iffland ensured it was a majestic homecoming, picking up another victory before collecting her sixth King Kahekili Trophy in front of an ecstatic 18,000 spectators.
Hunt, who had been forced to settle for a supporting role in the season’s early competitions as the younger generation of talent excelled, proved that even at the age of 38 he is still the man to beat from the 27m platform. Faced with the powerful challenge of his two title rivals, Aidan Heslop of the UK and Romania’s Catalin Preda, he summoned up every ounce of his vast experience of 92 World Series events to prevail with the season’s final dive.
“I still can’t believe it to be honest. This year starting off watching all the young guns with these massive dives, I kind of felt in the shadow and it showed in the results. I felt like I had to rebuild my confidence and restart. I managed to get there in the end,” said Hunt, who earned a total of 18 tens across the season.
“It sounds like a dream. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. A really tight season and finishing that on top. So, it’s going to take me a while to realize.”
In just his first season as a permanent diver, Heslop has defied his tender age and exceeded all expectations to send a clear signal to the cliff diving world that he is next in line to the throne. Two victories and three podium places, including another runner-up spot here in Sydney Harbour, ensured an overall second place for the 20-year-old in the World Series standings.
Preda may have fallen just short in his quest for a maiden title, but completing the podium at the finale means the 31-year-old repeats his overall third place finish from last season, and the ‘Romanian shark’ will no doubt be back on the hunt for glory again next year.
For Iffland, title number six had already been secured at the previous stop in Italy, but the dream of a fairy-tale victory on home soil meant there was no taking the foot off the gas at the eighth and final competition. With Canada’s Molly Carlson again applying the pressure, the dominant Aussie had to be at her imperious best to make it 30 wins in 37 starts ahead of being crowned once more in front of her friends and family.
“This is my sixth title and it’s really extra special. I’m genuinely speechless. I knew I was coming in and holding the King Kahekili trophy regardless of the result today, so I guess that took the pressure off a bit. But I still had a job to do. I wanted to put on a really good show in front of our home crowd. I managed to pull it off and that’s another tick off the list,” stated the 31- year-old from Newcastle.
“Super proud – this morning I was not knowing how I was going to cope with the nerves, not knowing exactly how I would feel up there. I took both dives down for 9s and that was what it took. It was cool to see Molly put this dive down and I’m really interested to see the scores with this big degree of difficulty. I think next year is going to be interesting.”
Carlson, in just her first year as a permanent diver, secured a sixth second-place finish with her highest total score since a stunning victory at the season opener in Boston. At just 24 years old, the overall runner-up will now focus on taking that extra step in 2023 and pushing Iffland even harder next time.
Completing the podium in Sydney was the increasingly impressive Eleanor Smart, a result which sealed third place overall for the American – a personal best for the 26-year-old, who made her debut back in 2017.
There was also an emotional farewell from one of the sport’s most loved and respected athletes, as Mexico’s Adriana Jimenez concluded her outstanding cliff diving career in front of the iconic Australian backdrop. The 37-year-old, who finished runner-up to Iffland in the 2018 season, signed off with a fifth place finish in Sydney.
With 762 dives in eight competitions across North America, Europe and Australia, not only were the champions crowned this Saturday afternoon in sunny Sydney, but also the eight female and male divers who secured a permanent spot on the 2023 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series were confirmed based on this year’s World Ranking.
In the women’s, in the addition to the top three, it’s Australian Xantheia Pennisi and Jessica Macaulay from Canada; USA’s Meili Carpenter, who will be a debutant on the permanent roster, Germany’s Iris Schmidbauer, who will see a return to the permanent line up after a year as a wildcard and also independent athlete, Yana Nestsiarava, will be back.
On the men’s side, Nikita Fedotov (IAT), Constantin Popovici from Romania and Italy’s Alessandro De Rose will be back for a fully-fledged 2023 season. New on the permanent list will be James Lichtenstein from the USA and Colombia’s Miguel Garcia to complete the top eight men.
The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series looks back on a successful 13th season and will be back in 2023 with new talent, more difficult dives and a unique calendar.
Results – Stop #8, Sydney, AUS
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 387.75pts.
2- Molly Carlson CAN – 370.70
3- Eleanor Smart USA – 339.10
4- Xantheia Pennisi AUS – 333.30
5- Adriana Jimenez MEX – 311.95
6- Meili Carpenter (W) USA – 300.70
7- Antonina Vyshyvanova (W) UKR – 293.85
8- Jessica Macaulay CAN – 284.20
9- Elisa Cosetti (W) ITA – 273.60
10- Maria Paula Quintero COL – 266.70
11- Iris Schmidbauer (W) GER – 234.85
12- Yana Nestsiarava IAT – 231.65
1- Gary Hunt FRA – 458.15pts.
2- Aidan Heslop GBR – 434.60
3- Catalin Preda ROU – 429.95
4- Nikita Fedotov IAT– 382.75
5- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 364.35
6- Oleksiy Prygorov UKR – 357.50
7- Carlos Gimeno (W) ESP – 354.60
8- James Lichtenstein (W) USA – 347.65
9- Miguel Garcia (W) COL – 331.00
10- Blake Aldridge (W) GBR – 329.50
11- Chris Bednar (W) AUS – 204.20
Final standings (after 8 of 8 stops)
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 1560pts. 2- Molly Carlson CAN – 1270
3- Eleanor Smart USA – 820
4- Xantheia Pennisi AUS – 798
5- Jessica Macaulay CAN – 794
1- Gary Hunt FRA – 1240pts.
2- Aidan Heslop GBR – 1116
3- Catalin Preda ROU – 1130
4- Nikita Fedotov IAT – 651
5- Constantin Popovici ROU – 609