Hunt shifts his fo­cus to worlds

Bri­tish diver wants to ride the wave after gold medal win in the cap­i­tal

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF - Amith Pas­sela apas­sela@then­

ABU DHABI // Gary Hunt won gold in the Abu Dhabi leg of the Fina High Div­ing World Cup as he con­tin­ued to have a vice-like grip on the sport yes­ter­day.

Hunt amassed an im­pres­sive 443.40 points at Yas Marina to beat Amer­i­can Steve Lobue (405.30) and Michal Navratil of the Czech Re­pub­lic (381.95) .

Rita Jimenez of Mex­ico won the women’s ti­tle, beat­ing Aus­tralia’s Rhi­an­nan If­fland and Yana Nest­siar­ava of Be­larus. World cham­pion Hunt rounded off his dives (back 3 som­er­saults and 4 twists) with a score of 140.40, in­clud­ing a per­fect 10 from the judges. When asked what the se­cret was to the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the Fina High Diver of the Year in 2015 and 2016, he said: “Se­cret? Just train­ing, there isn’t any­thing else. Work, work and again work.”

The Bri­tish ath­lete, 32, is also pleased with the level at which he is op­er­at­ing at the mo­ment.

“To reach this level of con­sis­tency, it’s both flat­ter­ing and im­por­tant for me,” Hunt said.

Just train­ing, there isn’t any­thing else. Work, work and again work Gary Hunt on his se­cret to suc­cess after win­ning gold in Abu Dhabi

“For­tu­nately, the nerves didn’t af­fect me much, so I could fin­ish strong in a com­pe­ti­tion where the level was quite high.”

His next tar­get is to de­fend his ti­tle at the Fina World Cham­pi­onships at Budapest in June.

“I am glad to be on the top one more time in Abu Dhabi, but the sea­son is far from be­ing over,” he said. “The worlds are com­ing soon and this is defini­tively a good mo­ti­va­tion to per­form well in Budapest.”

It was also a good day for Lobeu, who re­turned to the podium in a Fina event for the first time since win­ning bronze medals at the World Cup in 2014 and 2015. “I’m just happy that it was a good per­for­mance in the first com­pe­ti­tion of the year after more than five months,” the Amer­i­can said.

“I was able to shake off some of the rust and com­pete well. “Yet my best per­for­mance ever was still far be­hind Gary,” he added be­fore pay­ing trib­ute to Hunt. “I have to learn some harder dives and con­tinue to work hard. Gary is the Michael Jor­dan of our sport.

“He con­sis­tently put that four dives down and that’s what gives him the edge. His de­gree of dif­fi­culty is al­ways higher than us and has got ice in his veins. That’s what you saw again.”

Jimenez, the newly-crowned women’s cham­pion, said her win was a dream come true.

“I just can’t be­lieve,” Jimenez, 32, said. “I am so happy and re­lieved. This gold medal is also the re­sult of my coun­try’s and my friends’ sup­port for all these years. Things haven’t been al­ways easy, but to­day is a day to cel­e­brate.”

The big sur­prise of the com­pe­ti­tion was de­fend­ing cham­pion Lysanne Richard of Canada fin­ish­ing ninth. “I had two less good days, es­pe­cially on Fri­day. I know I have the level to fight for the medals, but this wasn’t my com­pe­ti­tion,” Richard said.

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