NEWLY crowned world champion high diver Gary Hunt returned to his Hampshire home in 2013 a broken man.

After three consecutive Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series titles he had been knocked off his pedestal as the planet’s greatest by Russian arch-rival Artem Silchenko.

His agony was two-fold after he also suffered heartbreak at that year’s World High Diving Championships in Spain, letting slip a 38-point lead to allow legendary rival Orlando Duque to win by one point.

The 31-year-old moved back to his parents’ house in Eastleigh, where he grew up and attended Barton Peveril College, to reevaluated and reflect on what went wrong.

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Hunt, who also attend Southampton and Southampton Solent University, took stock, spoke to his ex-coaches, former team-mates – including Southampton’s Olympic medallist Pete Waterfield – to plot his return to the summit.

What he knew was that with the repertoire of dives at his disposal at that point in time he’d only be able to sustain a top-five place in world-class diving.

To many, that would have been acceptable, but to The Quays Diving Academy graduate it wasn’t good enough.

He wanted to push the boundaries of what was thought possible and avenge his defeats.

Two years down the line and Hunt has exorcised the demons of 2013. In fact, he has completed annihilated them.

Hunt absolutely smashed the high diving at this week’s World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

He took a 33-point lead into the final and this time around made sure of victory.

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Not only that, but Hunt stands on the brink of claiming his fifth Cliff Diving World Series title and has won all five of this year’s stages so far, meaning he is on the brink of collecting his fifth series crown.

It was in the embers of those heartbreaking defeats two year ago that Hunt rose from the ashes to gain the world’s attention in Kazan.

During that return home to Southampton in 2013 and early 2014, he studied videos and pondered endlessly about how to push the boundaries of what was thought possible.

It was on one fateful day that he stumbled across an old training video from which he invented a dive that the world had never seen.

The front triple flip, with three-and-a-half twists was born.

“I had never tried it in the diving pool, but it was coming across this old diving clip that made me think to myself ‘why don’t I try something like that’,” Hunt said.

“That was in February 2014, so it left me with another two or three months of training where I really focused on that dive before the World Series restarted.

“It looks different. Nobody else had tried this dive in that style.

“I really enjoy that being a part of my image as somebody that likes to try new dives.

“I wouldn’t have come back with so much determination if I hadn’t had lost the title in 2013.”

Hunt has painstakingly perfected that dive and is in the form of his life.

His career at the pinnacle of high diving was a result of the disappointment of a 10m platform career, which saw the likes of Tom Daley and Waterfield stand in the way of his Olympic dream.

Hunt steered away from the Olympic class diving and up to the 27 metre platform, with the encouragement and direction of Steve Black, the former world champion higher diver.

Diving from more than eight stories high and at 60mph from cliffs into rough seas, jungle waters or from buildings, brings a different kind of dimension to the sport Hunt originally took up.

“It does get easier but you still have some doubts,” explains Hunt, who won a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in the 10metre synchronised dive. “You know it might be painful, there’s a high risk.

“Part of you tells yourself not to do it.

“You have to really push yourself to remember how it feels to do a successful dive.

“The battle is to convince yourself to go every time.

“It’s part of what makes it exciting.

“I’m kind of an adrenaline junky, but I don’t take too many risks outside of my job.

“I still don’t consider high diving a risk because I’ve been doing it for so long.

“I think I know my limits.”

Every time Hunt goes to work, he risks his life.

And, although his work life involves death defying leaps, he enjoys playing the piano and also juggles during free-time at the Parisian apartment he shares with his French girlfriend.