High Diving World Cup star backs Olympics bid

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The action is underway in Abu Dhabi.

For a sport that sees high divers plunge from heights of up to 27 metres at speeds approaching 90 kilometres per hour into water, it seems odd that this form of diving hasn’t yet scaled the heights of Olympic Games inclusion.

Away from the sky-high platforms that have been in full swing during the Abu Dhabi leg of the FINA High Diving World Cup at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend, the extreme sport is fighting its own version of vertigo – the battle to make it part of world sport’s biggest event.

Indeed, it’s a challenge FINA, the international governing body that administrates six disciplines of aquatics sports, is facing head on.

FINA recently announced it submitted a proposal for high diving to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as a separate, new discipline to that of indoor, springboard and platform diving we have become accustomed to seeing on television at the Games.

Ultimately, the final decision over whether we will see it in Japan rests with the International Olympic Committee and a verdict is expected to be made later this year.

Indeed, the IOC have the power to decide whether high diving should be added to the Olympics roster – either as a new sport or an extra discipline under the diving umbrella. Simply put, the latter is the most likely route into the Games for high diving given that many new sports receive IOC recognition – but that doesn’t necessarily mean an Olympics green light comes with it.

High diving is not what you would class as a globally-competed sport and this is a huge criteria for the IOC to decide whether it merits the Olympic nod or not. Basically, the more countries and athletes competing, the better in their eyes – and understandably so.

High diving facts

  • 27 metres (89 ft) – the standard top competition height for male divers
  • 20 metres (66 ft) – the standard top competition height for females
  • Other platform boards include 5m and 10m heights
  • Dives are feet-first rather than head-first

However, the fact the item is now firmly on the agenda is excellent news all round for diving and highlights further signs of progress for a unique activity that is already part of the World Aquatics Championships (debuting as a sport in Barcelona in 2013).

“High diving is an extreme sport and will certainly bring an added value to the Olympic programme. Since the introduction of high diving in the FINA programme in 2013, the evolution has been amazing, and the moment has come to go further,” Cornel Marculescu, FINA executive, said earlier this week.

The success of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series – high diving’s thrill-seeking and more dangerous sibling if you like – has also boosted the profile and glamour associated with diving.

One thing is for sure, as a spectacle, there are few sports that spark the adrenaline rush of seeing athletes fly through the air at a serious rate of knots.

“The Olympic Games is the dream of any athlete really, it’s the pinnacle – it’s the biggest stage you can perform on. That’s of course a big driving force for me and all the high divers to see our sport at the Olympics,” Gary Hunt, who is proclaimed as the world’s best high diver and is defending champion in Abu Dhabi, told Sport360.

The Briton, who resides in Paris – one of the bidding cities to host the 2024 Olympics – is one of the faces of his sport and known for his complex dives. Hunt won the FINA High Diving World Cup last year, adding to his 2015 world title and six Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series crowns.

He may not possess anywhere near the same status as the likes of Roger Federer or Valentino Rossi, but for Hunt, helping to raise the profile of high diving with ambassadorial work and doing his bit to make it an Olympic sport is just as important as how he performs himself.

“I definitely feel that the sport has been on the up since Barcelona, it’s really been a domino effect. Lots of different and important people have opened their eyes to high diving,” the 32-year-old said.

“It’s becoming more and more popular and as I see more and more extreme sports getting accepted into the Olympics, it seems inevitable to me that we will be part of it in the near future.

“In my eyes, it’s just a matter of time and I’ll do everything I can to help push the sport as far as it can go.”

The second and final day of the the FINA High Diving World Cup takes place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Admission is free for spectators.

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Going Out: Get your tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters

Denzil Pinto 24/04/2017
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Phil Taylor is playing his last Dubai tournament before retiring in December.

Taking place on May 24 and 25, the fifth edition of the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters will see elite stars battle it out for the top prize at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

Defending champion, and World No2, Gary Anderson broke the three-year stranglehold of World No1 Michael Van Gerwen in last year’s final and they will be among the names to feature in the two-day competition.

The event will also see former World No1 Phil Taylor take to the oche in Dubai for the final time before retiring from the game at the conclusion of December’s World Championship.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Taylor, a 16-time world champion. “All the players enjoy going to Dubai and it’s a fantastic event, everyone looks after us brilliantly and it’s an amazing place.

“The tournament’s a different challenge because it’s outdoors but we’re used to that now, and it would be a really special event to win this year.”

Previous editions of the tournament have proved to be a massive hit and next month’s is set to be no different.

How to get involved

  • What: Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters
  • Where: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium
  • When: May 24-25
  • Contact: www.dubai-darts.com/tickets

“The Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters is a wonderful event and provides a fantastic two days for fans who attend at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and watch on television around the world,” said Barry Hearn, chairman of PDC Darts.

“This is a unique championship and it’s a wonderful event to kick off the 2017 World Series of Darts.”

Colm McLouglin, executive vice-chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, added: “We are delighted to once again sponsor the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters.

“With eight of the world’s top players participating and a great ticketing offer, we think that the UAE crowd will enjoy this unique outdoor darts event which will be shown all over the world.”

The first day (Wednesday May 24) sees all eight players in quarter-final action while the semi-final and final will be played the following day.

General admission tickets start from Dh150, while VIP tables, sold individually (from Dh150) or as a table of 10 (from Dh7,999) are also available.

VIP Tickets include table seating with selected food and beverages, with general admission tickets for the tiered seating.

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DOWN UNDER: Why Adelaide is Crowing at AFL start

Alex Broun 23/04/2017
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Adelaide are the team to beat so far.

While it’s tempting to focus on the horror show that is the start to the season, 0-5 and rock bottom of the ladder, at the other end of the table there is another, slightly more positive, story emerging.

The Pride of South Australia [apologies Port fans], Adelaide Crows, are currently enjoying their best ever start to an AFL season, that includes their premiership years of 1997 and 1998.

It was 1998 that the Crows last won the flag and fans can be excused for starting to hope that the 19-year drought will end this year.

It’s not just the 5-0 start, it’s the nature of the victories that has the City of Churches buzzing. They started with a 147-91 hammering of the Greater Western Sydney Giants, a team who went within one game of last year’s Grand Final.

They followed that up with a 113-89 victory over Hawthorn, who have won three of the last four premierships. Next up was a 100-83 triumph over city-rivals Port Adelaide in Showdown 42. Port had also been undefeated up to that point.

Last weekend Adelaide made light work of Essendon (153-88), then on Saturday beat the Gold Coast Suns by an almost identical margin (153-86). The Crows winning margins this season have been 56, 24, 17, 65 and 67.

They deservedly sit on top of the pile with a percentage of 152.4, just above the Geelong Cats (also 5-0). The only other undefeated side is Richmond who play Melbourne on Sunday at The G.

But Crows coach Don Pyke is working hard to temper expectations, as Adelaide have swiftly become premiership favourites.

Instead, the two-time premiership winner with West Coast, is focused on the Crows’ mysterious hamstring toll with eight players suffering the injury this season, Riley Knight and Daniel Talia joining the growing list in the Crows’ demolition of the Suns.

The 48-year-old was adamant the injury, which is AFL’s most frequent, has nothing to do with the club’s training programme.

“It’s something we’ll look at but that’s footy and that’s what happens,” Pyke said. “It’s an endurance game and we’ll back our high performance guys in. That’s just what happens.”

Other players to suffer from the ‘hamstring curse’ include Brad Crouch, captain Taylor Walker, Mitch McGovern, Jake Lever, Kyle Cheney and rookie Alex Keath.

The injuries aside, or perhaps because of them, Pyke was elated with another performance from the top drawer.

Best of all was the consistency across the park. There were no less than 13 goal kickers, eight of whom kicked two or more goals.

“It [the spread] is not by design; that’s just how the game evolved,” Pyke said. “Our midfielders hit the scoreboard as well as our forwards.

“We’d like to have a nice and even contribution and we got that again tonight. It’s hard to look through and find players who didn’t contribute in some way or capacity and that’s how we want to play our footy.”

The Crows have managed to rebuild after a horror stretch in 2015 when then coach Phil Walsh was stabbed to death mid-season. The incident sent shockwaves through the club, especially after Walsh’s son was later arrested.

The good work done by Walsh, the team was seventh at the time of his untimely passing, has been built on by Pyke. He has his team playing a tough, attractive style of football and they kick a lot of goals.

The Crows this season average 133-points per game, two goals better than last season’s club record in Pyke’s first season as coach — and five goals up than the 2015 group he inherited.

But the defence is still a “work in progress” with the Crows conceding an average of 87 points, an extra goal per match on 2016.

The Crows face their toughest test so far next weekend when Richmond visit Adelaide Oval on Sunday. Geelong meet Collingwood at the MCG at the same time, hoping to keep the pressure on.

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