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76 Sport

Mat Cowen, of the UK: Diving from the 27.5 metre platform at the Blue Lagoon (Pic. Red Bull Cliff Diving)


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Navratil spoils Hunt’s homecoming

Winners Michal Navratil of Czech Republic and Rhiannan Iffland of Australia: Celebrating on the podium (Pic. Red Bull Cliff Diving)

GARY HUNT was forced to

settle for second as Michal Navratil claimed his first ever Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series win on Saturday (Sept 10). The 31-year-old made a stunning

return to action following knee surgery with a spectacular win in the Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire, Wales. In a competition held under a

revised schedule due to Sunday’s bad weather outlook, Hunt finished just points away from a dream return to Great Britain in second place, while America’s Andy Jones continued his impressive form from the 27.5m-platform this season with

another podium finish. In the women’s event, wildcard

Iffland returned to winning ways to continue her magical debut season and pull further away at the top of the standings, while Lysanne Richard from Canada followed up her win in Italy with a second-place finish and Cesilie Carlton (USA) completed the podium in a sold out event at the circular-shaped former slate quarry. A windy weather forecast in this

south west corner of Wales meant that the competition had to be completed in one day for the first time in World Series history, and it was Navratil in his eighth year on the series who

seemed to excel under the compressed conditions. The Czech showman, nicknamed

Supratil and famous for his ‘Superman’ dives at the end of events, had missed last month’s competition in Italy due to knee surgery, but returned with a near-perfect display of dives in this Colosseum-like setting and seize his first ever victory at the 53rd attempt in

Narrow Away Defeat

Division One West Gorseinon 31 Aberystwyth 29

AFTER a relatively gentle

introduction to Division 1 against Penclawdd at home the previous week, Aber faced stronger opposition on Saturday (Sept 10). Gorseinon have been in Div 1

West for three seasons and last season finished in mid-table. But, in ideal conditions for running rugby, Aber showed class and determination to run the opposition very close indeed in a thrilling, high-scoring game. Aber were two tries up in only

fifteen minutes. For the first, from a ruck 10 metres out, the ball was passed to Plumridge who charged over for an unconverted try. Gorseinon stormed back, taking

play into Aber’s 22m; but, from a winning ruck, the ball was fed along the line to Slinger, who made a brilliant 50-metre run downfield to score a second try. Gorseinon clawed back three

points from a penalty before scoring an unconverted try. Poor tackling in mid-field allowed the opposition to launch another attack which resulted in a further unconverted try followed by a second penalty to leave Aber 18-

10 in arrears. They drove back downfield and,

from a catch and drive line-out, the ball was fed to Tom Evans, who scored near the posts, allowing Hughes to convert comfortably, bringing the score to 18-17. Gorseinon immediately hit back

and, after sustained pressure, a break by full-back Callum saw the ball passed to fly-half Popham to score an unconverted try. Aber were now being stretched wide by the Gorseinon backs but held out for a 23-17 half-time score.

Strangely, the opposition had not

made use of the wind advantage at all in the first half, and Aber seemed equally reluctant to do so for most of the second half. Both sides battled hard for

supremacy for the opening ten minutes of this half until an excellent tackle- breaking run by No 10 Hughes took play downfield. He was stopped eventually but managed to offload to the ever-supportive Stubbs, who scored under the posts. Hughes converted to bring the

score to 23-24 and secured Aber’s four-try bonus point. Gorseinon hit back once more and were awarded a penalty in the Aber 22 metre area which they duly kicked. Then came the turning point in

the match. The ball was fed along the line to Aber’s right wing, who rounded his opposite number to cover over 40 metres to score an excellent try. At that point the Gorseinon touch-

judge decided that the winger had stepped on the touchline and belatedly raised his flag. Although that try was disallowed,

Aber soon hit back with a fine try by full-back Coleman to regain the lead at 26-29.

However, with only five minutes

remaining, more pressure from a determined Gorseinon side and some weak Aber tackling saw their left winger score to take the score to 31-29. Aber’s players and coaches can

feel proud of this performance but they would also concede that, although there is considerable potential, the squad’s development is still a ‘work in progress’. The Aber scrum was solid and their lineout efficient. Robby Parry was outstanding. However, there was some naivety

in the use of the elements as insufficient use was made of the wind in the second half. Also, more determined tackling in mid-field could have turned the tide in Aber’s favour. But, with this result, they will have

made other clubs in Div 1 West sit up and realise that Aber were not just promoted to make up the numbers.

(L-R): UK’s Gary Hunt, Czech Republic’s Michal Navratil and the USA’s Andy Jones (Pic. Red Bull Cliff Diving)

front of 2,800 spectators. Leading after the third round,

he narrowly held off the charge of pumped-up crowd favourite Gary Hunt, displaying no signs of pressure from almost three times the Olympic height after the Brit had moved into the lead with only the Czech left to dive.

The recently married Navratil

moves up to fourth in the overall standings, while Hunt extends his lead at the top ahead of Mexican Jonathan Paredes, who could only finish fifth. California-based Andy Jones, already with two runner-up places in his pocket this year, further enhanced what is his best season so far with another brilliant performance to take third place. In the women’s competition,

wildcard Rhiannan Iffland added more daylight between herself and her rivals at the top of the standings with a third win in four events this year. One day after her 25th birthday,

the rookie from the Gold Coast had seen her winning streak stopped by Lysanne Richard in Italy two weeks ago, but bounced back in emphatic style by putting down three dives of the highest quality from 20m. Canadian Richard is not going to

lay down quietly though, and having recorded another impressive second place finish in Wales, it looks like a thrilling battle is in store between the two heading into the final three events. In two weeks time, it’s a return to

Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where 22 of the world’s best cliff divers will continue their battle from the historic Stari Most bridge as the 2016 season marches towards an exciting climax.

Rhiannan Iffland of Australia: Performing an impressive tuck dive (Pic. Red Bull Cliff Diving)

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