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Port of Montreal to host Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series event this summer

Molly Carlson can't wait to launch herself into the St. Lawrence River this summer. The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is coming to her adopted home of Montreal on Aug.
An artist's rendering shows the platform that will be used in August when the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series comes to Montreal, in this undated handout image. Red Bull says the visual was created "via real drone footage of the venue mixed with AI 3D rendering of the platform we will place there later this summer." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Jed Lab Productions, Jack Lafortune

Molly Carlson can't wait to launch herself into the St. Lawrence River this summer. 

The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is coming to her adopted home of Montreal on Aug. 25, the first time Canada has been on the schedule since the circuit started in 2009.

The Canadian stop will be staged at the Port of Montreal’s Grand Quay.

The Red Bull World Series sees the women dive off a platform 21 metres — or some seven storeys — above the water. The men dive from an average platform height of 27 metres.

Each dive lasts just three seconds with male competitors reaching speeds in excess of 85 km/h as they hit the water.

"I can't even imagine the feeling of hitting the water after doing an amazing dive and coming out to a Canadian crowd. I already have goosebumps just thinking about it," said Carlson. "I can't wait to do my best in front of everyone."

The 25-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ont., who now calls Montreal home, is entering her fourth season on the circuit, finishing third overall in 2021 and runner-up the last two years.

The World Series opens May 26 in Athens with stops in Boston (June 8), Italy (June 30 in Polignano a Mare), Northern Ireland (July 20 on the Causeway Coast) and Norway (Aug. 10 in Oslo) before Montreal.

The circuit then shifts to Turkey (Sept. 29 in Antalya) before wrapping up Nov. 10 in Sydney, Australia.

Each stop is different.

In Boston, the competitors dive from platforms on the roof of the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Northern Ireland's rugged Causeway Coast, featured in TV's "Game of Thrones," see the athletes dive into the choppy waters of the Atlantic. In Italy, the setting is a picturesque cliffside town

Each event features 12 male and 12 female divers. There are eight divers in the permanent roster with four men and women's wild card at each event.

Fellow Canadian Simone Leathead, a 20-year-old from Montreal, moves from wild card to permanent diver this season.

Australian star Rhiannan Iffland has won the women's title seven years in a row. That earned her the King Kahekili trophy, named after the Hawaiian chief who first jumped from the holy cliffs of Kaunolo in the 1700s in what is believed to be the origins of cliff diving as a sport.

Romania’s Constantin Popovici won the 2023 men's title, with Britain's Aidan Heslop second. Heslop goes out with Carlson and trains with her in Montreal under coach Stephane Lapointe.

A former gymnast, Carlson spent 12 years doing traditional diving (10 metres and three-metre springboard).

She attended Florida State on a diving scholarship and was named diver of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2017 and 2020. When COVID struck, she thought her diving career was over.

"Then my old college coach said 'You know you would suit high-diving really well. And I was like 'No way am I ever going to jump off things like that," she recalled.

She moved to Montreal, drawn by the Olympic Sports Centre's 20-metre diving platform, and started high-diving training under Lapointe.

"Here I am jumping off some of the craziest platforms in the world," she said, "I love every second of it.

"It's terrifying every day but it pushed me to be my bravest self. And it's helped me come out of my shell, not only as an athlete but as a person and it helped me find my confidence and my bravery. So I'm grateful for this sport and I can't wait to show Canada what's it's all about."

Carlson's sunny outlook and willingness to try anything, be it bungee jumping or skydiving, has earned her a loyal audience. She has 3.8 million followers on TikTok and 368,000 on Instagram.

Carlson hits the water at speeds of 65 to 70 km/h. The sport takes a toll even if you get the dive right.

Carlson was out for two months after hyperextending her knee early on in cliff diving, soon learning that her body can only take so many repetitions from that height. Later on she was sidelined for six weeks after suffering a concussion when a landing went awry.

Heslop won gold in the men's 27-metre high diving event in February at the World Aquatics Championship in February.

Iffland won her fourth 20-metre title in Doha, finishing ahead of Carlson and fellow Canadian Jessica Macaulay, who retired from the Red Bull circuit after last season.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press