Australian reflects on ‘perfect’ Red Bull Cliff Diving season and eyes more wins
Australian high diver Rhiannan Iffland has enjoyed the type of year most athletes can only dream of, after she won all seven Red Bull Cliff Diving stops to complete an historic perfect season and wrap up her fourth title in a row.
Not only that, she entered the last round of the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea outside the medals but hit back with a sensational dive to snatch gold by just 0.15 of a point – her second in a row after her first gold at Budapest 2017.
It has been a remarkable four years for the 28-year-old since she started competing seriously, however the Newcastle native still believes that she has more to learn and there are plenty more trophies that she can secure in her sport.
Here is what she had to say after the 2019 finale in Bilbao:
Did it even enter your mind that a perfect season might be possible at the start of 2019?
We had a training camp in China during the last off season and I had one or two bad days, so mentally I was a bit unsure. Going into this season, everyone had been training hard and you just didn’t know where you were. I had a great first stop in the Philippines, though, which put me in a good place.
Did the pressure increase once you had won gold in such dramatic fashion at the World Championships in July?
After the World Championships, the pressure actually decreased because last year I started in the opposite way. I didn’t start as strong and I really had to fight for it so this year the goal was to have a strong start. At the end of last season when Gary (Hunt) and I were in the same tough position and we managed to win our titles, we both said that we are going to start this season strong. I take a lot from Gary and his brilliant mind for diving and competing.
Have you got any more new dives in your locker ahead of your 2020 title defence?
I have stepped up the degree of difficulty with both of my difficult dives, one since two years ago and one since last year. I have some more dives in my locker, though, and I think I have a long career ahead of me working little by little. I want to push more in the off season this year.
How much of the sport comes down to the visualisation of a particular dive?
It comes a lot from self-confidence – making sure you have put the training in to make sure you feel comfortable standing up there. I can picture the take-off and how the dive is going to feel and then the muscle memory kicks in.
Have you ever had a mental block before or during a competition dive?
A couple of years ago, I had a mental block on a really simple dive. I got spaced out and lost it in the air, so any front take-off felt foreign after that. There was something in my mind that felt weird and told me no. My old trampoline coach was one person who helped me get over that. I changed the way I took off from the platform.
Has the influx of new talent like Jessica Macaulay and Maria Paula Quintero helped spur you on?
They are young and pushing the big dives. I really enjoy competing with people who push me to my limits. It goes one way or the other. Somebody does a good dive before you and you can take that as pressure or positive energy. You need those hard competitions to make it worth fighting for.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. How did your Mostar knee injury dive affect you in 2017?
Diving again last year in Bosnia, following my injury, I was terrified. I had to get through it, though, I had no choice. The first dive was horrible, but this year one thing I learnt was to talk more and rely on people around me.
You are a talented all-round athlete, so could you have turned pro in other sports?
I am not sure I would have had a shot at turning pro in other sports, but I love to watch surfing and winter sports a lot. I would have loved to have given freestyle aerial skiing a go. I used to love gymnastics, trampoline and diving. When I turned 15, though, I chose diving.