Cali-born diver Orlando Duque took first spot in the first FINA High Diving World Cup held in Kazan, Russia from August 8 to 10. Duque, who turns 40 this September, showed in Kazan that he is still among the top divers in the world.
In five jumps that took place across Friday and Sunday he secured the gold medal with a total score of 601.20 points, sending British favourite Gary Hunt into second place with 580.05 points and US diver Steve Lobue to third with 571.70 points. Other Colombians Miguel Garcia and Cristian Arayon finished in respectable 13th and 19th spots.
It was an important turnaround for the Colombian, who holds the most World Championship crowns in cliff diving history as well as two entries in the Guinness Book of Records, as he had been beaten by close friend Hunt in most of the World Series events across the last three years. But he upped his game for this, the most important tournament of the year, and came out strongest.
After Friday’s three jumps, Duque was trailing Lobue by 3.30 points. On Sunday, Hunt nearly closed the gap in the fourth jump, but Duque took the lead and went on to cement it with a magnificent fifth and final jump, convincingly claiming the victory.
Following the win, he told FINA; “Great day for me! FINA High Diving World Cup champion, yeah! Tough day, with difficult conditions but it worked out perfectly for me, five good dives and my best personal score.” His wife, who joins him all over the world, was not forgotten as he tweeted his gratitude: “The best team, thanks to my Catalina who puts up with me on this difficult path”.
President Santos expressed his pride and congratulated Duque on his historic performance. Whether the well-meaning congratulations were well received by the 12-time World Champion is questionable since Duque has complained on multiple occasions in the last decade that he has been unable to access financial help from the Colombian government.
Duque has a history of coming out on top in the important tournaments. The result in Kazan mirrored the 2013 Barcelona FINA World Championships, where Duque took gold and Hunt silver in the first ever 27-metre high dive to be included in the event.
Discussing his future in an interview with El Pais, he shared his ambition to continue for as long as he is competitive, hopefully at least until the next World Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2017. Duque is working together with the Aquatics Federation to get the discipline into the Olympic Programme for 2020. By that time he will be 46, but does not rule out competing, seeing it as a difficult but not impossible path.
His next tournament will be the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series which arrives in Bilbao, Spain on September 20 this year, giving him another chance to add more silverware to his trophy cabinet.
Read more in our Duque profile
By Freek Huigen