The sultry settings, virtually and figuratively, of Wadi Shab provided the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2012 a perfect ending as the world’s best divers showcased their extreme sporting skills in Oman. Visvas Paul D Karra reports.
Emerald-green water, dramatic rock formations of the Wadi Shab, Omani passion and an ‘MTV-grind’ like atmosphere provided the appropriate stage setting for the finals of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2012. And in true blue edge-of-the-seat entertaining style, it was the final three-second flights of the year at Wadi Shab, that clinched the winner as Orlando Duque, of Colombia, who took the last dive, came short at the points table.
Ultimately, no one came close to Englishman Gary Hunt’s highest score of the day – at 173.25 points – even though Duque tried his best in the last dive of thrilling final showdown held at Wadi Shab – arguably one of Oman’s finest adventure spots, a canyon-like valley filled intermittently with turquoise waters, two hours south of the capital Muscat. It was the red-hot final that everybody expected and it was a battle until the very last dive.
Leading the standings going into the final round, Orlando Duque, of Colombia, had the honour of taking the season’s last plunge at Wadi Shab, in the Sultanate of Oman. Hunt, from Britain, had just set the day’s high score of 173.25 points and the pressure was on the Colombian.
As soon as he had hit the water it was clear that the higher degree of difficulty had paid off for Hunt, as the judges awarded the same number of points to the two contenders, crowning Gary Hunt with the World Series championship title for the third time. Nearly, 5,000 enthusiastic spectators witnessed the most thrilling final showdown and the first ever cliff diving competition on Arabian soil in the presence of HH Sayyid Tariq bin Shabib Al Said.
In seven stops across Europe, North America and the Middle East in 14 weeks, the cliff diving elite was put to the test, awarding only the top five divers from 27 metres with a ticket for the 2013 season. Almost 300 competition dives, seven different podium finishers and four winners’ faces in natural, urban, remote and unique venues made the fourth season of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series the most awe-inspiring to date.
The bottom six of the 2012 field of permanent participants will have to enter qualification, together with new talent, in order to claim a ticket for next season, early next year. Hunt had it in his own hands on the September 27, 2012, and he did not disappoint. He had to win the day’s competition to defend his title. The ‘brilliant Brit’ won by only 1.85 points, ahead of Orlando and rookie David Colturi (USA).
In a first statement, Hunt said: “This year has been the hardest without a doubt. It felt like everyone was on top of their game and you had to be diving really well to win it. Waiting for the final score was one of the most nerve-wracking times of my life. I saw that it was an amazing dive from Orlando and then saw the scores but those few seconds were really nerve-wracking.
I didn’t want to calculate it before hand but to see it up on the screen and how close it was… wow! It was just the best competition I’ve ever done!” With a victory in the kick-off competition and five successive second places, 38-year old Orlando Duque came back strongly after sustaining a serious ankle injury: “I know if Gary’s diving well then I have to do extraordinary dives to be able to beat him and I got pretty close but it just wasn’t enough – perhaps it was just half a point from one judge! I didn’t think when I broke my ankle a year and a half ago that I would be in this position fighting for the title on my last dive and I’m proud of how I’ve performed.
I want to raise my degree of difficulty ahead of next year but you know that everybody else will be doing the same.” Probably the most impressive newcomer, 2012 qualifier Steven LoBue, of the USA, claimed his spot on the overall podium after adding his name to the winners’ list at the sixth stop. Completing the top five positions – the athletes who qualify automatically for next year’s World Series – are Russia’s Artem Silchenko and American David Colturi.