Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Inaugural high diving worlds make big splash in Barcelona

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BARCELONA, Spain -- High diving has taken the plunge into the sporting mainstream.

Thousands of people turned out Monday to watch 14 competitors descend from a height of 27 metres -- the equivalent of a nine-story building -- into Barcelona's harbour in the first two rounds of the inaugural men's high-diving final at the swimming world championships.

Cliff-diving great Orlando Duque totalled the day's best score of 217.10 points after a pair of tumbling plummets that ended with a loud splash as he jackknifed into the green water.

After a moment of suspense, the 38-year-old Colombian bobbed to the surface, flashed a smile and gestured an "OK" signal with both hands to ignite the cheers of the crowd amassed along the shore and fleet of sailboats.

"Winning a medal would be awesome, but winning the first one... you would always be remembered," Duque said. "It would be quite an honour."

The final continues Wednesday with three more rounds of dives off the temporary scaffold platform erected in Barcelona's old harbour, near where the famous Las Ramblas street meets the Mediterranean Sea.

Artem Silchenko of Russia is second with 215.95 points, followed by Jonathan Paredes of Mexico with 213.30. Three-time defending Red Bull series champion Gary Hunt is fourth with 213.

The women will dive from a platform of 20 metres in today's one-day final.

Hunt said it was "great" that high diving had finally become part of the world championships.

"It's been a long time since we started talking about this sport being part of a big event, and it's great to be a part of it," Hunt said. "After the first day, the crowd was packed. I think it went well. I'm happy with my dives and very much looking forward to the day after tomorrow."

High diving appears to require a measure of bravery, lunacy or both, depending on whom you ask.

China's Qiu Bo won his second world title Sunday in the men's 10-metre platform, the highest pool dive. He has no plans to go higher.

"No, I am not going to try it," Qiu said. "But I'm definitely going to watch it. I think it's amazing. It takes a lot of courage."

Qiu was not alone. Several members of the United States diving team turned out to support American high divers Steve Lobue and Kent De Mond -- and none professed a desire to try the greater height.

Just in case, scuba divers waited below the platform, submerging as the divers broke the surface in case they needed help.

No divers did. And none was hurt in an event that can cause injury if a diver fails to enter the water at a straight angle, feet first and with arms tight against the body.

While the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, with its disc jockeys and party-like atmosphere, has a surfing vibe, Hunt said, this first high diving at the worlds is more subdued and largely silent like the pool diving.

"Things are a little more official here," Hunt said. "Everything is taken very seriously... But competition-wise, it's the same."

The world swimming federation approved high diving as a full medal event only five months ago, hoping to tap into the success of the established Red Bull series that can draw thousands of spectators.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2013 D5

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