A Horsham diver has topped his own record and is celebrating his best-ever finish after placing third overall in the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
Blake Aldridge - a former Olympic diving partner of Tom Daley - bested his tenth-placed finish in 2016 to easily qualify for the event in 2018 with his landmark top-three placing.
The 35-year-old led the series with two rounds remaining after a series of spectacular dives in Texas propelled him to his first series win since the maiden stop of the 2014 event in Cuba.
But a tenth-placed finish in Bosnia and sixth in Chile saw him leapfrogged by Mexico’s Jonathan Paredes, who took the King Kahekili Trophy, and fellow Brit and six-time winner Gary Hunt, who clinched second.
Despite slipping from top spot, Aldridge was extremely upbeat about his season. He said: “It’s been my best year to date for the Red Bull Series. Before I was doing the big dives but I was really inconsistent.
“I have scaled back a little bit on my dives. Purely because of how much of a mental game it is, it means you’ve got to deal with the dives in general, as well as the pressure of doing some of the hardest dives in the world. I can’t be too disheartened. My best place before was finishing fourth. I’ve now finished third two years later. I’ve got to take the positives from it and move forward.”
The highlight of Aldridge’s season was his spectacular first-placed finish in Texas. This proved to him that he could still compete at a high level. The diver, who suffered a series of injuries and personal problems last year, has put his recent improvement in form down to the consistency he has shown throughout the season - highlighted by his big win in America.
“I hadn’t had a win since 2014,” the diver continued. “I’ve had podiums every year that I’ve been doing the series, but only two first placed finishes.
“Everyone was on fire at that event in Texas. I managed to dive that well that I managed to beat everybody that was also diving so well.
“It was a really big realisation that I was up there with the very best and can beat the very best even when they are on top form.”
Aldridge, who trains at Pavilions in the Park, is not thinking of the upcoming season preferring to reflect on how far he has come as a diver.
“I’m going to have a bit of rest and recuperation. It’s been nice to finish well this year and I’d like to go out next year and finish in the top two now.
“In a couple of weeks I’ll start preparing for the start of next year’s season. I’m going to get fitter, get more consistent, and who knows what could happen.”