Gary Hunt, the ‘Michael Jordan’ of diving, claims gold at Fina High Diving World Cup in Abu Dhabi

Gary Hunt won gold in the Abu Dhabi leg of the Fina High Diving World Cup as he continued to have a vice-like grip on the sport on Friday.

Gary Hunt continued his dominance of high diving in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // Gary Hunt won gold in the Abu Dhabi leg of the Fina High Diving World Cup as he continued to have a vice-like grip on the sport on Friday.

Hunt amassed an impressive 443.40 points at Yas Marina to beat American Steve Lobue (405.30) and Michal Navratil of the Czech Republic (381.95).

Rita Jimenez of Mexico won the women’s title, beating Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland and Yana Nestsiarava of Belarus.

World champion Hunt rounded off his dives (back 3 somersaults and 4 twists) with a score of 140.40, including a perfect 10 from the judges.

When asked what the secret was to the continued success of the Fina High Diver of the Year in 2015 and 2016, he said: “Secret? Just training, there isn’t anything else. Work, work and again work.”

The British athlete, 32, is also pleased with the level at which he is operating at the moment.

“To reach this level of consistency, it’s both flattering and important for me,” Hunt said. “Fortunately, the nerves didn’t affect me much, so I could finish strong in a competition where the level was quite high.”

His next target is to defend his title at the Fina World Championships at Budapest in June.

“I am glad to be on the top one more time in Abu Dhabi, but the season is far from being over,” he said. “The worlds are coming soon and this is definitively a good motivation to perform well in Budapest.”

It was also a good day for Lobeu, who returned to the podium in a Fina event for the first time since winning bronze medals at the World Cup in 2014 and 2015. “I’m just happy that it was a good performance in the first competition of the year after more than five months,” the American said.

“I was able to shake off some of the rust and compete well.

“Yet my best performance ever was still far behind Gary,” he added before paying tribute to Hunt. “I have to learn some harder dives and continue to work hard. Gary is the Michael Jordan of our sport.

“He consistently put that four dives down and that’s what gives him the edge. His degree of difficulty is always higher than us and has got ice in his veins. That’s what you saw again.”

Jimenez, the newly-crowned women’s champion, said her win was a dream come true.

“I just can’t believe,” Jimenez, 32, said. “I am so happy and relieved. This gold medal is also the result of my country’s and my friends’ support for all these years. Things haven’t been always easy, but today is a day to celebrate.”

The big surprise of the competition was defending champion Lysanne Richard of Canada finishing ninth. “I had two less good days, especially on Friday. I know I have the level to fight for the medals, but this wasn’t my competition,” Richard said.

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