By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE FIRST leg of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series takes place this weekend in El Nido, Palawan, boasting of 24 of the top athletes in the sport in the world, including an Australian of Filipino descent and the retuning champions.
Australian Xantheia Pennisi, Gary Hunt of Great Britain and Rhiannan Iffland of Asutralia will be among those seeing action in the cliff-diving spectacle at the Small and Big Lagoon in Miniloc Island in El Nido on Saturday, with eyes on gaining early points in the seven-stop Red Bull Series.
Filipino-Australian Pennisi, whose mother is a native of Tarlac, said she feels privileged and honored to be the first cliff diver with Filipino descent to compete in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
“Everything happens for a reason, and this stop happened for me. I will be diving for my family and my biggest supporter, my mom,” said Ms. Pennisi heading into this weekend’s competition.
This year’s marks the second time that she will be competing in the prestigious series after making her debut last year.
She hopes to continue building on the gains she had the first time around and develop her skills as a diver.
“For me, this year is still about learning the sport of cliff diving. I have only been cliff diving for less than a year, so I am focusing on doing consistent dives and getting high scores. I don’t have the biggest dives yet, but I am working on them. My goal is to place in the top 5 at all the competitions,” said Ms. Pennisi, who began high diving as a teen and immediately established herself as a favorite among her coaches and peers.
Ms. Pennisi went on to say that for the Palawan leg of the series she has been training hard — building up her body and perfecting her execution.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hunt and Ms. Iffland, the reigning men’s and women’s champions, said they are very excited for the about-to-start series and they will try their best to come out on top anew.
“My goal is to keep the title. It was a very close race last year and it was a shaky start so I would love to get off to a very strong start and stamp my foot down on this year’s title,” said Mr. Hunt, a seven-time winner of the series.
In 2018, the British diver won the overall title with 1,010 points, 60 ahead of second-running American Steven LoBue (950). He helped his cause by topping the last four legs of the series after struggling in the first three.
For her part, Ms. Iffland, a three-time Red Bull series winner in the women’s division, said she is in awe of the sight in Palawan and looking forward to competing in it.
“I’m looking forward to taking in the atmosphere and really enjoying the hospitality from the people of Palawan because it’s not my first time diving here in El Nido. Two years ago I was on holidays, and I remember taking a boat cruise across the lagoons and thought wow this is just so picturesque, it’s the perfect place to high dive and to cliff dive,” said Ms. Iffland.
The Australian won the overall title last year with total points of 830, ahead of second place Adriana Jimenez (760) of Mexico and Lysanne Richard (690) of Canada.
Viewers in the Philippines can watch the full Red Bull event, along with the remaining six stops of the 2019 World Series, on S+A and iWant Sports (iwant.ph), 5PLUS and 5plus.com.ph, FOX Sports, FOX Sports GO, FOX+ app, and online at http://www.foxsports.ph.