Hunt likes be­ing the one hunted

Bri­ton re­turns to cap­i­tal to de­fend div­ing ti­tle and he rel­ishes chal­lenge

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF - Amith Pas­sela apas­sela@then­ational.ae

ABU DHABI // Gary Hunt re­turns to the venue where he won gold to kick off a suc­cess­ful sea­son 12 months ago.

The Bri­ton pre­pares for the Abu Dhabi leg of the Fina High Board Div­ing World Cup, to be held today and to­mor­row at Yas Ma­rina, know­ing full well how dif­fi­cult it is to de­fend one’s crown.

“Def­i­nitely there’s more pres­sure be­ing the cham­pion, but that’s some­thing that I en­joy and like to feel – that other peo­ple are chasing me,” Hunt said dur­ing the launch cer­e­mony at the Crowne Plaza ho­tel on Yas Is­land yes­ter­day.

“This gives me more mo­ti­va­tion to stay on top. It is al­ways more dif­fi­cult to stay on top than to chase the leader, and I love that chal­lenge.”

Over the years, the 2015 Fina Best Male High Diver of the Year has de­vel­oped a rep­uta- tion for per­form­ing com­plex dives. He pro­vided some in­sight into how he has gone about dom­i­nat­ing his field.

“It is dif­fi­cult to think about the po­si­tion you are ly­ing in, the re­sults and oth­ers’ per­for­mance,” said Hunt, 32. “At the edge of the plat­form, I’m think­ing just about div­ing and the way you can bet­ter it.”

Even when he is not com­pet­ing, Hunt has learnt to fo­cus just on him­self. “When I’m train­ing in the off sea­son, I’m not train­ing to beat the other divers,” he said. “I know my body, I know my po­ten­tial. If I feel like I can im­prove and reach the po­ten­tial that I have, I feel very grat­i­fied to be on top of the podium.

“The driv­ing force that keeps me train­ing is just to im­prove and keep learn­ing. It’s a per­sonal goal of any ath­lete, to per­form at the big­gest stage.”

It is that men­tal tough­ness that gives him the edge over his peers.

“As a young diver, I didn’t have the very high level,” he said. “My friends had a very high level and I had to push my­self to keep up with them.

“I would try to put my­self in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions and try dives I wasn’t re­ally ca­pa­ble of. I made lots of mis­takes when I was younger but I just kept go­ing.”

An­other use­ful qual­ity Hunt has, as he puts it, is “spa­tial aware­ness”.

“For some rea­son, when I get lost in the air, I know how to find my way and land back on my feet again just through my train­ing,” he said. “So, it gives me lot of con­fi­dence when I’m on the board.

“In this sport con­fi­dence is ev­ery­thing.” An­other notable name com­pet­ing in Abu Dhabi over the week­end is Canada’s Lysanne Richard, who will be de­fend­ing the women’s crown.

It is al­ways more dif­fi­cult to stay on top than to chase the leader, and I love that chal­lenge Gary Hunt De­fend­ing cham­pion of the Abu Dhabi Fina High Board Div­ing World Cup

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