Pedro Adrega, FINA Communications Department

It is known: the secret for success in diving (and high diving) is to put together complicated DD (Degree of Difficulty) with flawless execution. Gary Hunt, from Great Britain, normally manages to be good in this exercise, but in Budapest, in the final of the High Diving competition, the second factor failed: execution. In the lead of the field after the first three rounds, he then tried a forward 3 somersaults, 4 ½ twists and failed the entry, over-rotating. The result was painful: marks between 3.5 and 5 and downgrade to fifth position. The main beneficiary of this false step from the British champion, was US Steve LoBue, who performed consistently both Friday’s prelims and today’s two final rounds. The “king of somersaults” was efficient in his last combination, also a challenging inward 5 somersaults ½ twist in the tuck position, finishing the competition in 397.15 points. For LoBue, this is the fourth podium in a FINA event, after previous medals at the World Cup: silver in 2017 and bronze in 2014 and 2015.

Michal Navratil (CZE) - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

The silver medal in Budapest went to Michal Navratil, from Czech Republic, in 390.90, while the bronze was earned by Alessandro De Rose, from Italy, in 379.65. Navratil improved his bronze medal from the 2017 World Cup; for De Rose, it was the first podium presence in a FINA competition.  

After the initial two rounds, on Friday, Gary Hunt was the provisional leader, performing successfully his emblematic dive, the complicated 5268D, the back 3 somersaults 4 twists (DD 5.2). Getting 132.60 points for this combination, he then concluded the prelims with 205.40 points, against Navratil’s 191.25, and Colombia Miguel Garcia’s 190.20.

Everything seemed going in the right direction for the 2015 world champion and winner of the last two editions of the World Cup, as Hunt also had no special problems in his third combination, a back 3 somersaults, in the pike position. At this stage of the competition, he managed to keep control of the competition, despite an excellent inward 3 somersaults with ½ twist from LoBue, noted between 8.5 and 10 (the sole perfect score of the competition) by the judges. Navratil also appeared very secure with his armstand back 2 ½ somersaults, retaining the third place, behind the US star, who had upgraded two positions since Friday’s prelims.

Alessandro De Rose (ITA) - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

In the last round, Hunt dramatically failed his DD 5.6 dive (the most complicated one in the final), while LoBue superbly performed his inward combination and Navratil remained solid with a final front 3 somersaults, 2 ½ twists. With Hunt’s poor performance, the other diver taking advantage of the situation was Alessandro De Rose, who was able to secure the bronze with an armstand back 2 ½ somersaults with 3 twists.

Previous medallists in FINA events couldn’t get to the podium this time: Orlando Duque (COL), 2013 world champion, was sixth; Jonathan Paredes (MEX), 2015 silver medallist and third in 2013 was eighth; Artem Silchenko (RUS), third in Kazan 2015 was a modest 13th in today’s final.

QUOTES

Steve LoBue (USA), gold

“It’s a surreal moment. Hundreds of hours of your life come together in three seconds. I couldn’t be happier. Looking to be with my lovely wife and baby girl”.

“It takes a very special person to jump from 27m – we do help each other a lot, as we all understand and respect the fear. We are like brothers, this group of people is like my second family”.

“Two years ago, I beat with my head in the board in La Rochelle (FRA). It was tough, some other people would have resigned or succumb to the fear, but I competed two weeks later and I realised that it was a sort of freak accident. You have to overcome your fear. After that, I changed my programme to include more somersaults instead of twists”.

“I devote my time to perfect my two most complicated dives, in my case the (five) somersault dives. In such a difficult sport, people get trained to the dives they feel more comfortable with. In Portugal, this year, I had a very bad landing on one of these dives – I was fortunate to come back and do it correctly. After the entry here, I was feeling it was pretty much OK, as I had seen the successful dive from Michal. It was hard to watch Gary failing, but at the same time it worked on my favour”.

“The event was amazing! We definitively deserve an Olympic place and we will keep pushing for 2024. The tank was OK, despite some initial reserves. The idea that you can take a tank everywhere is also an attractive idea – fresh water, with temperature controlled. The city is also amazing, the view from the 27m is great and we each take a second up there to appreciate that”. 

Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Michal Navratil (CZE), silver

“I was unlucky in Kazan, one of the dives didn’t work well. Here, I put down all my four dives in a consistent way. Everybody who does this knows there is a risk, and knows how courageous you must be to do this. We are always in the limit, and we always respect each other. We don’t want any of us to get hurt”. 

“I also choose the dives I feel comfortable with, so that I can first qualify for the final round. Then, the last dive is kind of all in. If you miss, you are out of the podium. I wanted so much to qualify and compete at the Worlds that I resigned from my job on a cruise boat. I wanted to be at the World Cup and qualify for the event here in Budapest”.

“The pool here is amazing, is much easier like this, even in case of an accident. The conditions were great. Looking forward to more events like this one”.

Alessandro De Rose (ITA), bronze

“There are so many feelings in my head now... The high diving family is amazing, I just feel more relaxed in the platform knowing that my friends are watching me. Even if I am only high diving for 4 years, they always push and support me”.

Gary Hunt (GBR), fifth

“I definitively felt the pressure. My last dive is relatively new for me, and after four competitions in four weeks, I felt my legs shaking a bit. I had enough power on top of the board, but I had to fight with the G-force in my legs… It proves that I am also beatable, I don’t like to be known as someone unbeatable. I am someone who tries to push himself to the limit. That’s it, sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail, like today. I cannot hide some deception, as I wanted to defend my title, but I have now to wait two years more and work on this dive…”