A series of spectacular dives propelled Blake Aldridge to his first Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in three years and to the top of the overall standings for 2017.
The Horsham-based diver’s final effort at the fourth stop of the world tour in Texas saw him take victory with just two more dates left in this year’s World Series.
With his rivals laying down some brilliant dives, it was one of the tightest men’s finals ever, with only 11 points separating the top seven divers.
Aldridge leaped to his first series win since the maiden stop of the 2014 event in Cuba and he left America with no fewer than an eight out of ten mark for all of his four dives over the two days.
In what was one of the closest finals from the 27m platform ever, a crowd of 9,000 fans watched from boats, kayaks and paddleboards.
After a series of injuries and personal problems last year, Aldridge - a former Olympic diving partner of Tom Daley - feels his hard work, both mentally and physically has got him to the top of his game.
He now leads the overall standings with just two events - Bosnia (this week) and Chile - left to compete, as he looks for his first-ever overall series success.
Aldridge said: “I have had a lot of training after I had a really bad year last year. I trained in Australia for six months in the off-season and I think the key was to work really hard to put myself in a better mental place.
“I have made the final in every event this year which is a bit of consistency that I have never really had in the past. I went to Texas feeling really good and strong, and I was able to train more. That made me feel a lot more comfortable mentally as I was able to do one of every dive before the event started.
“I got up there and dived the best I ever had. Nothing got below an eight in four dives in the whole competition. That means my dive was nearly perfect in every round. I have never really been able to start rounds like that, before I have always messed up somewhere in the four or had a bad start and had to catch up on people.
“I have never started well, so that is a new bridge crossed for me. The final round was phenomenal. We go in reverse order from first place to fourth, so as I had to go last I had to watch everyone else go and the pressure was building.
“I was nervous and had to compose myself and try and not mess it up, but I got up there in a really good head space and I dived well.”
But the victory was almost snatched away from the 35-year-old who trains in Pavilions in the Park, as he was originally announced in second place.
Intense heat had caused the scoreboards to malfunction and originally the scores were done manually and a mistake was made in the adding up which saw Jonathan Paredes given top spot.
But the error was soon noticed and Aldridge was re-announced as the round winner. He admitted: “I was a bit deflated as I felt I had won, but then everything was checked again and it was announced I had won.
“I was so proud of myself, that one, to have put some strong dives together throughout the stop and two, the competition was of such a high standard. From start to finish the dives were consistent and outstanding. I was really proud to hold my nerve.”
Aldridge leads the 2017 standings by 20 points from fellow Briton Gary Hunt, while Paredes is ten points further back in third.
The penultimate stop is in Bosnia this week, from Saturday, ahead of the season finale in Chile towards the end of October.