He may be 38-years-old, but Orlando Duque is still earning firsts…
The Colombian cliff diving legend has become the first man to be crowned high diving world champion.
Duque needed a wobble by his main rival, Gary Hunt, on the last dive of Wednesday’s final to claim the inaugural gold medal by just 0.9 points.
Duque, Hunt and the other fearless competitors plummeted three times from the equivalent of a nine-story building into the Barcelona harbor, adding to the scores from their first two rounds from Monday.
And when the murky green water had calmed, Duque’s 590.20 points were worth the first gold medal in a sport he has nurtured into the mainstream with 15 years of tempting fate and wowing awe-struck crowds.
“To know that when they look at the records my name will be there first is important,” said Duque. “Besides, I am the old guy of this group. I’m 38 years old and I’m jumping with guys who are 23. It was looking a little difficult after that second dive because Gary, Gary is Gary and he always nails them, but he committed a little mistake at the end. But that is the nature of the competition, someone wins, someone goes home crying.”
Hunt, the reigning three-time champion of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, finished agonizingly close with 589.30 points and had to settle for silver. Hunt’s medal was the first for Britain at these world championships.
Mexico’s Jonathan Paredes claimed bronze with 578.35.
Thousands turned up to line the city shoreline for the “extreme” aquatic sport, enjoying its festive atmosphere and the divers’ surfer-esque swagger as they soared downwards from the temporary 27-meter platform.
No diver was injured in the falls that take three seconds to complete despite speeds reaching 100 mph. After breaking past the surface feet-first like a projectile, the participants bobbed up and gave the scuba divers there to ensure their safety the “OK” signal that their bodies were in one piece.
The world swimming federation approved high diving five months ago as a world championship event, hoping to tap into the popularity of the Red Bull series.
Duque called high diving’s debut at the worlds a “complete success” and praised the steps made to improve safety.
“This is going to make it get even better. The sport is going to keep growing, more countries and more divers are going to get interested in it,” said Duque. “It’s the evolution of what has been happening in recent years. Out of nowhere, now people worry about our safety, and this was the safest. (Here) we can do very difficult dives with absolutely zero problems.”