Cliff diving – in a place where diving from great heights has been a tradition for four-and-a-half centuries – a hand selected group of 14 of the world’s best cliff divers will be part of the first ever World Series competition at the ‘Stari Most’, the old bridge of Mostar, and the country’s most recognizable landmark. The first dives from the bridge date back to 1664, the first competition to 1968, and August 15, 2015 marks the day when Gary Hunt, the dominating Brit, will launch acrobatically from the 27m platform to continue the pursuit of the ‘perfect season’. After the season’s closest finish on the Portuguese Azores and two new faces on the podium, the World Series will meet fanatical cliff diving fans and touch new grounds in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
31-year-old Gary Hunt might be the dominant athlete with five straight victories in the current season; but contention for the podium has been extended by two more divers in the previous stop, and cliff diving’s creams of the crop are on top of their games. Mexico’s rising star Jonathan Paredes and Andy Jones, the master of aerial awareness, from the US, have made a claim for a top spot in the overall standings next to Orlando Duque, the legendary Colombian, former Olympian Blake Aldridge, America’s David Colturi, and the Russian heavyweight Artem Silchenko. With five spots up for grabs for automatic qualification for a 2016 season, these seven athletes will fight it out at almost three times the Olympic height. Will the invitees – four wildcards are invited to every stop – show another strong performance like they did in Portugal, where three of them made it into the top eight? Anatoliy Shabotenko (UKR) and Sergio Guzman (MEX), placed 7th and 8th in the off-the-cliff leg, will also spice up the competition beside Jorge Ferzuli, from Mexico, and Bulgaria’s Todor Spasov. Their highly complex manoeuvres will be judged by five international judges, amongst them Russia’s former top diver Dmitry Sautin.
Eternalized in the city’s flag and coat of arms, life in Mostar has been centred on the humpback bridge ever since its construction in the 16th century. Iconic ‘Stari Most’ is a place where young men from Mostar prove their courage in a sort of maturity test, and the tradition of the diving competitions is almost 450 years old. Equally iconic as the bridge, is the image of a diver soaring through the air from the bridge towards the fast and cold water of Neretva River. Gracefully arching over the emerald water of Neretva River, connecting two parts of the old town in Mostar, it’s surrounded by fortified towers on both sides and fits seamlessly into the landscape, creating an impressive sight. The bridge is, together with the surrounding Old City of Mostar, a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, and is often cited as one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. The bridge was destroyed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later faithfully reconstructed using the original stone blocks taken out of the river below. The single span stone bridge, in today’s form, was inaugurated with a diving exhibition in 2004, and for the first time this August will be the venue with longest diving tradition in the World Series.
Photo/video Red Bull Media House