By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
EL NIDO, PALAWAN — While it remains to be seen if Palawan will become a steady fixture in the schedule of the series, still top athletes who competed in the just-concluded first leg of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on the island are looking forward to coming back, seeing how the area presents a lot of upsides as a possible destination for the sport and a great spot to show what it is all about.
Made its Philippine debut at the weekend, at the Small and Big Lagoon in Miniloc Island in El Nido, the Red Bull world series saw 24 of the top cliff divers in the world compete; athletes who all came away at awe and impressed with what Palawan had to offer.
“This place is so iconic of cliff diving. The cliffs are some of the best I have seen. To start the season here is really special for all of us. Also, we all came away with no injuries. So that is a success,” said men’s division defending champion and first-leg winner Gary Hunt of Great Britain shared to members of media following the competitive competition on April 13.
He was seconded by his counterpart in the women’s division, Rhiannan Iffland of Australia, who highlighted the island as a great spot to showcase the sport.
“I definitely think this is a great location to showcase our sport, just to show little bit of what we do. I think I speak for the rest of the divers that we love this place and we love it here,” said Ms. Iffland, the women’s defending champion and winner of the first leg as well.
During the competition, the divers had to climb their way through a network of bamboo ladders, which the organizers said were carefully put and in close coordination with the proper local government, environment and tourism authorities as well as the coast guard to ensure that the cliffs are not damaged.
The climb, the divers said, presented some challenge but it was easily topped by the cool and flat water of the lagoon and the perfect weather, making their dive truly an experience.
For Red Bull cliff diving sports director and four-time Olympic gold medallist Greg Louganis, Palawan stands out as a destination vis-à-vis the other stops in the series.
“It has been amazing. This side is so remote and poses a lot of challenges but everybody in the team loves challenges so it comes with the territory. But you cannot beat the scenery. I mean, it’s a spectacular surrounding. It’s an incredible backdrop,” Mr. Louganis shared.
“I’m at awe. What better place to be in, right? I’m always asked as part of Red Bull cliff diving what is my favorite spot among the stops. Oman and the Philippines are kind of neck and neck. They are remote and present challenges but sometimes that is the best. And that is what cliff diving is all about,” he added.
The accomplished diver, who is pushing 60 next year, went on to say that they hope with the staging of the Red Bull world series in the country more Filipinos get to appreciate it and help in furthering the global growth of the sport.
“I think it’s very important that we stage it here. I wish we could get more people or spectators in the area but I know they are limiting it because the place is a protected area. But I hope people tune in on the television and watch the beautiful scenery and the dive. It’s quite an art,” Mr. Louganis said.
Meanwhile, joining Mr. Hunt, who topped his division with 427.25 points, on the podium in the first leg were Constantin Popovici (409.40) of Romania at second and Jonathan Paredes (408.05) of Mexico.
On the women’s side after Ms. Iffland (329.25) were Yana Nestsiarava (319.35) of Belarus and Lysanne Richard (309.70) of Canada.
Next stop for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is Dublin, Ireland, on May 12.