World Champion cliff diver completes craggy childhood dream

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The Independent Online

Orlando Duque is also known in cliff diving circles as 'The Duke', a moniker one is entitled to once nine World Champion titles have been accrued in a 10-year period. However, it was not until early in November 2009 that the 35-year-old completed something he had imagined since a child -- free-diving the cliffs of Malpelo island, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, west of his Colombian homeland.

(Relaxnews) -

Orlando Duque is also known in cliff diving circles as 'The Duke', a moniker one is entitled to once nine World Champion titles have been accrued in a 10-year period. However, it was not until early in November 2009 that the 35-year-old completed something he had imagined since a child - free-diving the cliffs of Malpelo island, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, west of his Colombian homeland.

As a result of the island's precious nature, he and his small crew required written permission from Colombia's Ministry of Ecology before their November visit to the small 3.5 square kilometer chunk of oceanic crust that's a destination for sealife of all kinds, especially hammerhead and silky sharks.

This makes the island popular with geologists, marine biologists, and those who simply enjoy swimming with sharks, but few will have entered the water from the crags above with such aplomb.

The rocks of Malpelo imprinted themselves on Orlando's mind as a child, when he first saw them on television aged 10. Around the same time he started diving, training for up to six hours a day, and was eventually poised to take the 1992 Olympics by storm - but the poverty of the Colombian diving association prevented them from sending him to compete. Thus began his adventures into other forms of diving: circus diving, stunt diving, and then cliff diving where he found his freedom.

It was shortly after this in 1999 that Orlando placed second in the Cliff Diving World Championships, and then in 2000 received perfect 10s from all judges after his first and third jumps, giving him a Guinness World Record as well as the gold medal.

2010's Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series will be starting off in La Rochelle on the west coast of France in May, with a clutch of interesting locations to follow including a stop off in India before culminating in a USA-based grand finale.

More on the Cliff Diving Championships: redbull.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/World-Series/Cliffdiving-Page/001238874343857

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