Former Olympic finalist Blake Aldridge was delighted as he made a great start to the 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving season with a second-placed finish in Inis Moir, Ireland.
Aldridge, from Horsham, lost out by just 0.15 of a point to the six-time world champion Gary Hunt in what was a great contest at the first World Series event of the year.
The 2017 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has six stops across the globe from June to October, in locations such as Italy, United States and Chile, featuring the world’s top divers.
The second-placed finish brings a lot of confidence for Aldridge in the new season after he endured a tough 2016 in and out of the sport.
He said: “Last year was really tough personally, with the miscarriage of my child, splitting up with my fiancé and with so many things going through my head it affected my diving a lot.
“I had two big crashes in the 2016 season and almost lost my tongue after miss-timing one of the dives, and crashes affect you mentally for competitions.”
The former three-time European champion took himself away to focus mentally, heading to Australia for six months in the off season where he regained his confidence and started to enjoy diving again.
After just qualifying for the Red Bull Cliff Diving 2017 season, Aldridge has got off to an almost ideal start with his runner-up finish as the Inis Mor event.
He said: “I really couldn’t be happier, the sport is so competitive now that to be first, second or third is these events is a great achievement.”
Aldridge, who is the former diving partner of Tom Daly, performed a death-defying stunt next to Cliffs of Moher diving off a helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean with a fellow diver days before the season got underway.
Australian female cliff diving champion Rhiannan Iffland and Aldridge tested the waters ahead of the adrenaline-packed action ahead.
The pair performed breath-taking dives from a helicopter hovering high above the waves, against a backdrop once used in the Harry Potter movies as a prime horcrux-hunting location.
Aldridge said: “It was an unreal experience, I’ve dived off a helicopter before but this was a lot higher.
“The hardest thing is that the helicopter height fluctuates, making it difficult to judge the jump, and the blades create a swell in the water making the landing even harder.”
Aldridge, who trains at Pavilions in the Park when he is back in the country, is already looking forward to the his next event on the cliff diving world series on July 9 in Portugal’s Azores Islands, but is careful not to get ahead of himself.
He continued: “The Azores Islands stop has always been a tough event, two of our dives are from natural cliffs instead of a board which brings all sorts of complications with an uneven launch surface, as well as wind and sea conditions.”
“I’m just happy to be diving again, the whole week in Ireland has been uplifting, showing that if I dive well the results will come with it.”