The perfect dive in cliff diving

Prelude to Cliff diving World Series - Go with the Flow:

In the fascinating sport of cliff diving the athletes prepare their bodies and minds for years to possibly reach the perfect dive once in their whole career. Sometimes they feel it right from the take-off and sometimes they are surprised by the judges’ scores. What is true in both situations is this incomparable feeling after the dive and the fact that it is not just about the scores.

“I remember the competition where I got those seven 10s from the judges. I was doing really, really well in practice and I remember one of the judges when I came to him and asked ‘how was my dive?’ he was like ‘wow, that was really good. If you do it like that you will get 10s tomorrow from the judges’. I went for it in the competition and I felt really, really good. I turned around again, looked at the water and under water it was like ‘wow, I think he’s going to give me a 10’ and I came up and looked at the judges and I couldn’t believe it, really.” Orlando Duque has experienced a perfect dive at a very early point in his cliff diving career. In the world championships in 2000, his very first one, he got perfect 10s from the judges.

It’s a Guinness World Record that still stands today. Everything had come together that day – the perfect feeling and the perfect score. 10 world championship titles later and the 39-year-old still strives for perfection. “When you manage the three elements – take-off, flying in the air, and then the water entry with no splash – it’s the best feeling in the world. Underwater you know it; you’re just so happy already.”

However, for two of his closest competitors for the overall title in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Gary Hunt and Artem Silchenko, it’s not all about the perfect score. “For me doing the perfect dive would feel that it just went perfectly and you just don’t feel any impact on the entry and everything in the air seems to flow,” explains Gary Hunt, the Brit who leads the 2013 World Series before the final showdown in Thailand at the end of this month. And there are also two different sides to a dive for Russia’s Artem Silchenko: “Of course we dive and everything depends on how the judges like your dive and of course everybody wants five 10s, but for me it’s how I feel and what I can do to control everything.”

The ability to control an action-packed dive from the height of an eight-storey building reaching speeds of up to 90kph doesn’t come overnight and the chances of reaching perfection grow with every new day of dedicated training on a physical as well as a mental level. Besides all the technical training that has gone in over the years. Most of the elite group of athletes started diving before entering school. Cliff divers need to be in the right mindset when they walk down to the end of the platform. It’s about the right balance between being calm and energetic. “You need to be very clear in your head and mainly very relaxed. It’s very difficult to get relaxed when you’re standing that high and you’ve got a big dive to do. It’s an art. It’s a lifetime’s work to be able to teach yourself the tricks and the traits to get that perfect dive,” says Blake Aldridge, the former British Olympic diver. Just like his competitors, the 31-year-old has learned it the hard way; that perfection comes through failure. He’s landed his back armstand with 2 ½ somersaults and four twists – a dive which when executed perfectly scores 189 points – more than once with his arms up, over-twisted or with a big punch on his chest. This is the time when you start struggling with your dives and your confidence. Artem Silchenko struggled a lot last year with his blind-entry

dive after two hard landings on back and chest, he almost considered ending the season and going back to the pool for more training. But he kept trying and training until he did his dive – a back armstand with 2 ½ somersaults and 2 ½ twists – almost to perfection in the season’s second stop in Copenhagen: four 10s from the five judges, 183 points and a second successive win. “I think mentally it’s really quite a unique sport in that you have to prepare not only for that one perfect dive which is going to happen in three seconds, but the preparation mentally is also that if that dive goes wrong how you prepare for your next dive as well. You really have to clear the decks and focus on the next dive and the next dive after that and not get over-excited or over-down if you’re not going down like you want,” explains Dr. Donald Kuah, an experienced sports physician specialist and one of the founding practitioners at Sydney Sports Medicine Centre and Sydney Sportsmed Specialists. He has had extensive experience of elite national teams and, as the NSW Institute of Sport Medical Director from 2000 to 2012, was responsible for the state’s top 700 elite athletes.

“I don’t know if the goal for myself is a perfect dive every time. I want to enjoy the dive, I want to have fun with the dive. In competition it’s a little bit different. In competition you have to do as close as possible to the perfect dive, because the judges are very strict. But in general diving, It probably helps sometimes to get a bit of the usual competition pressure off, when you go diving just for the fun of it. It clears the mind and recalls the unique feeling of flying through the air. “It’s a lot about your natural way of doing things. It’s a bit like Roger Federer – okay, you can do great shots but it just looks so smooth when he does it. It’s the same thing with diving. A lot of people can do these amazing acrobatic skills, but some are a little bit more smooth and graceful than others,” says cliff diving expert Joey Zuber. 


Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
15 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Or log in with...