The 32-year-old Briton had it all to do on the very final dive of the afternoon at Yas Marina, having seen closest challengers Steve LoBue, Michal Navratil and Jonathan Paredes all usurp each other of top place with some stunning efforts in the final round of the tournament.
But when he needed to be at his best, the Eastleigh was exactly that, delivering an epic finale involving three backward somersaults and four twists to earn a score of 140.40 – including a perfect 10.0 from one of the seven judges – to blow his competitors out of the water.
Nearest rivals LoBue (112.20), Paredes (112.75) and Navratil (103.20) all went over 100 on their final efforts to lay down the gauntlet to the reigning world champion, who answered emphatically.
“I’m very happy. It feels great to be back on the 27m platform after a long pre-season of training. It was a high level competition, I felt the others hot on my heels, but I felt like I was diving really well,” said Hunt, the six-time Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series champion.
“I absolutely felt the pressure coming into the final dive. You can’t not hear the other scores from the other divers but that’s something you need to deal with.
“I put my back triple quad dive last because I’ve been doing it for five years and I know I can do it well.
“I think tactically lots of people get their most difficult or less stable dives over with on the first day. It’s nice to be on the platform and not having to roll the dice.”
Humble Hunt has been called ‘The Machine’ by his opponents and picked up right from where he left off last year, gaining successive victories in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m very flattered by that,” he added.
“It’s a great compliment and to be able to get to a level of consistency when people say that, I’m very happy. I’m trying to work as hard as I can in the off-season. Not take much time off so I can get back on the horse and keep improving.
“I still feel like I have extra points to make up and there’s room to improve.”
The women’s event, meanwhile, was won by diminutive Mexican Adriana Jimenez, who claimed her first medal in a FINA competition.
“I’m so happy. It’s a dream come true,” said the 32-year-old who won with 316.45 points, 3.65 ahead of runner-up Rhiannan Iffland, of Australia, and Belarus’ Yana Nestsiarava (296.80) in third.
“I’ve been working to be here the last two or three years. It was a dream of mine many years ago and I’m just so grateful to be here. I was just focused on what I had to do. It’s a beautiful moment for me.”