Englishman Gary Hunt lit up the gloom in Grimstad as the 27-metre champion emerged from the water victorious after the final dive of the day, edging out the American pair of Steven LoBue and Kent De Mond in the process.
With the divers reaching speeds of up to 90kph during a descent of less than three seconds, Hunt hit his quad one and a half for nines from the judges to secure first place on Saturday in front of thousands of spectators on boats who glimpsed the spectacular action through thick fog in Norway.
Close to 400 boats crowded the Skagerrak Strait at Barselkilen despite the wet and misty conditions and saw Hunt excel, while 2012 qualifier LoBue has the lead in the overall standings after hitting a brilliant back triple triple to secure second place in Norway and replicate his result from two weeks ago in Corsica.
"It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve been on top of that podium so it’s great to be back," said Hunt. "To do a full list of dives without many errors I’m really happy with. It gave me a big boost to get the first dive out of the way and be in the lead – that set me up for a great comp. The dive I won with, the one and a half twisting quad, is my favourite dive.
'The one and a half twisting quad is my favourite dive'
With the American trio of LoBue, De Mond and Saturday's 'lucky loser' David Colturi, who very nearly grabbed a place on the podium after nailing his double reverse with four twists in the final round, snapping at the heels of Hunt there is a real fight on for the top positions.
To that trio you can add the excellent technique of Colombian Orlando Duque, who finished 5th in Norway, and Russian Artem Silchenko, who withdrew from Saturday's competition after landing short on a new back armstand dive he is still perfecting, so Hunt is expecting the fiercest challenge yet for the title that has been in his possession for each of the past two seasons.
"Steven is right up there in the chase for the title, he’s got two second places, and Orlando, you know he is going to be consistent," said Hunt. "You can‘t write off Artem or David either because, with the rules this year, you wipe out your two worst results. It’s going to be a real challenge."
The cliff diving elite travel next to the Portuguese islands of the Azores for the third stop of the 2012 World Series on Saturday, July 21.