Beirut’s Pigeon Rocks premieres as pure venue of the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series as Rhiannan Iffland (AUS) and Gary Hunt (GBR) aim to increase their stranglehold at the top on July 14.
Going into the second half of the season, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series hits new ground off the coast of Beirut’s neighbourhood of Raouché, with the reigning champions intending to stretch their winning form. Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland, still unbeaten in the current season, could win for the 5th consecutive time this year; for Gary Hunt from Great Britain a victory from the natural landmark would mean the 3rd win in the season’s 3rd offthe- cliff competition after Philippines and Portugal. Although the leading duo remain on course to retain the King Kahekili trophy for now, the battle for vital ranking points will spice things up in Lebanon’s capital city.
In the Portugal leg two weeks ago, Hunt had to be at his imperious best to see off the marauding challenge of Mexico's Jonathan Paredes, who himself broke a long-standing record by earning six times the highest note from the jury at a single stop. If Paredes is able to transform the extra push from such a strong performance into consistency, the Brit’s ride on the wave of confidence might get choppier moving into the business end of 2019. America’s Andy Jones, 2nd and 3rd in the previous two stops, needs to be listed when talking of favourites. The 34-year-old is a master of aerial awareness and always to be considered when tricky or new locations are on the schedule.
Nobody has yet been able to stop the women’s dominant figure Iffland, the 3 time champion from down under – neither an unknown location nor the competition from the likes of Lysanne Richard, the season’s three-time podium finisher from Canada, or Great Britain’s Jessica Macaulay. The 26 year-old toned down the difficulty in Portugal to secure her first podium in her debut year as a permanent diver and has surpassed Yana Nestsiarava from Belarus in the overall standings to sit in 3rd.
When the World Series returns to the Middle East for the 3rd time following the season finales in Oman in 2012 and Dubai in 2016, the cliff diving elite will be challenged to dive from the bare rocks for the 3rd time this year – more than in any other year to date.
Standing like gigantic sentinels, the two huge pillars of Beirut’s primary landmark are a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. The limestone outcrops known as Pigeon Rocks grow up to 40m above sea and are just offshore with one of the rock formations having an archway eroded through it. Voted the mustvisit city for the year 2019 by World Tourists, the acrobatic cliff diving feats from up to 27m will only spice up this label and leave the fans below the rocks in awe when the world’s oldest extreme sport is hosted in one of the oldest cities in the world.
Standings (after 4 of 7 stops):
1- Gary Hunt GBR – 600pts
2- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 350
3- Andy Jones USA – 350
4- Michal Navratil CZE – 280
5- Kris Kolanus POL – 220
1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 600pts
2- Lysanne Richard CAN – 370
3- Jessica Macaulay GBR – 360
4- Yana Nestsiarava BLR– 330
5- Maria Paula Quintero (W) COL – 210