Cesilie Carlton plunged the equivalent of seven stories into the murky waters of Barcelona’s harbor and when the US diver resurfaced she had won the inaugural gold medal in the extreme sport of high diving at the FINA World Championships.
Not bad for someone who is afraid of heights — and flying.
Carlton and teammate Ginger Huber finished first and second in the 20m platform competition on Tuesday in an event that swimming governing body FINA hopes will push aquatics into the X-Games age.
“I’m afraid of heights,” Carlton said. “That’s why I go very quickly. I don’t look down for a long time, but I know that I have control of what I’m doing.”
“The toughest part is looking over,” she added.
Leaping from a temporary platform with thousands of fans watching from the shoreline, Carlton impressed the judges with her final dive, a triple half pike, and moved up from third after the second of three rounds.
Carlton won gold with a total of 211.60 points, Huber had 206.70 and Anna Bader of Germany took bronze with 203.90. Only six women competed. The men’s competition, from 27m, concluded yesterday.
There was one scary moment when Diana Tomilina of the Ukraine, who finished sixth, nearly lost her balance when preparing a back dive. Standing at the edge of the platform with her back to the water, she had to stick one leg out over the edge to regroup.
Carlton had no such problems.
“Up here I’m really in control and aware of what I’m doing,” she said. “So I don’t really consider it too much of a risk because it’s pretty calculated.”
The 32-year-old Carlton works in Macau as a performer in a show called City of Dreams in the House of Dancing Water.
“I would have never thought that I would have done high diving,” Carlton said. “My husband was a high diver and the first time he told me he was a high diver I said: ‘You are crazy. Why would you want to jump off of something that high? That’s insane.’”
The 38-year-old Huber works at Sea World in San Diego, where she dives from only 7m.
“So I just added 13 to what I do — a minor adjustment,” she said.
Huber dived for the University of Georgia, before being recruited by entertainment companies and getting into show diving.
“The female [sport] hasn’t evolved as much as the male. So you’re not going to see the huge dives yet,” she said.
Nearly all the male divers come from the well-established Red Bull Cliff Diving series, which saw women compete for the first time earlier this month.
“It can definitely grow,” Huber said. “We just need a little bit more help. A little bit more training facilities.”