Pedro Adrega, Head of FINA Communications Department

Gary Hunt (GBR) and Adriana Jimenez (MEX) were the best in the first two rounds of the 4th FINA High Diving World Cu, taking place in Abu Dhabi (UAE) on April 28-29. In the inaugural day of the competition, the British star amassed 205.80 points among men, while the 32-year-old Mexican leads the women’s raking with 166.30. 

Hunt, 2015 world champion and winner of the World Cup last year also in the capital of the United Arab Emirates was nearly perfect in his initial combination, an inward 2 somersaults and ½ twist in the pike position (DD 2.8), for which he got marks comprised between 9.0 and 9.5. Then, his second dive was the most difficult of the day, an impressive DD 5.6 – front 3 somersaults and 4 ½ twists in free position. However, the entry was not perfect and judges sanctioned the mistake with marks not exceeding 7.5. That was however enough to keep the lead. “The take-off (running) was not strong enough and I hadn’t sufficient rotation”, explained Hunt after his performance. 

The British great – he will be 33 years old in June – is confident for the last two rounds of dives this Saturday. “Today, my second dive was a new one and it was the one I was more afraid of. It wasn’t perfect, but I still got the lead, so I am optimistic for tomorrow. I will execute two dives that I know well, so it should be OK”, he confessed. On the overall level of the competition, Gary Hunt underlines that “is improving fast, with many divers trying new and complicated things”.

The road to victory seemed easy for Hunt after the first dive, but an amazing second dive from Steve Lobue (USA), reminded the world champion that things may be complicated if a slight mistake happens again. In fact, Lobue (known as “king of somersaults”) performed an excellent front 5 somersaults with ½ twist, for which he was noted between 9.0 and 9.5. Ninth after the first round, the US diver concluded the day in second (204.90), less than a point behind Hunt. Lobue was third at the 2014 and 2015 World Cup in Kazan (RUS) and Cozumel (MEX), respectively.

Gary Hunt (GBR) - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Michal Navratil, from the Czech Republic, is for now the third best in the men’s field (23 divers took the plunge in Abu Dhabi), with 185.15 – he was very regular in his first two combinations, getting marks around 8.0/8.5. In case of medal, this would be Navratil’s first presence on the podium in a FINA event – his best ranking so far being a fourth position in Barcelona 2013. 

Other confirmed stars are for now further down in the classification: Orlando Duque (COL), world champion in 2013, is sixth; Jonathan Paredes (MEX), second last year in the World Cup, is seventh; Artem Silchenko (RUS), silver medallist at the 2015 Worlds in Kazan (RUS) is only 15th

Surprise from Mexico
In the women’s field, Adriana Jimenez was the surprise of the day, with two good dives, and marks above 8.0 in any of them. The Mexican star is an experienced athlete, but never reached so far a podium in a FINA competition. “I felt very good, and I managed to remain concentrated. I also slept OK tonight after two nights where I couldn’t close the eyes due to jet-lag. This was also important”, declared Jimenez after her effort.

Presenting a new dive in her programme (back 3 somersaults in the pike position), she confessed that executing it well was “decisive” for this provisional lead. When asked about a medal prospect, Jimenez was cautious: “I do one dive at the time. I need to get focused and then see what happens. You know, I am very thankful for what we have the opportunity to live with high diving, the exciting places we visit, the many friends we have, this special atmosphere…”

Adriana Jimenez started diving at 8, in the pool. In 2004, she narrowly missed the Olympic qualification for the Games in Athens (GRE), and then decided to take a break until… 2014! Since then, she decided to embrace the high diving world and is training in Mexico City in the High Performance National Centre. “I only do this in life and I have a lot of pleasure doing it. I have done some shows, but I want to focus in the sport from now on”.

In second, Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland (only 10th in 2016) collected 151.60, while the third provisional place goes to 42-year-old Ginger Huber. The “eternal” US diver, a true example of longevity in sport, was also bronze medallist last year and has a World Championships’ silver from Barcelona 2013. 

Previous podium presences in FINA events are for now facing some challenges: Yana Nestsiarava (BLR) is fifth, Helena Merten (AUS) is sixth, Anna Bader (GER) is seventh, Cesilie Carlton (USA) is ninth and Lysanne Richard (CAN) is 11th.

After the end of the competition this Friday, athletes, coaches and officials paid a memorial tribute to the late FINA Technical High Diving Committee Member Niki Stajkovic (AUS), who passed away in the beginning of February.