GARY HUNT stands with just his toes teetering on the edge of a platform 90ft above the lapping waves below and feels one thing: Fear.
Being “scared” of heights, a professional cliff diver may seem an odd choice of job for the London-born world champion.
But taking risks and pushing everything to new limits is in Hunt’s DNA.
He also happens to be very good at what he does, having won top prize in the Red Bull cliff diving world series six times and losing out on the title just once since 2010.
Victory amid the waterfalls of Lago Ranco in Chile on Friday will see Hunt retain his crown.
But once again he will be gripped by anxiety and nerves when the time comes to trust himself hurtling towards the water at speeds of almost 60mph from a height equivalent to six double-decker buses.
Hunt said: “I love cliff diving and the fact it’s an adrenaline sport. It gets me nervous and scared.
“Outside of it I’m very calm. I don’t go out doing bungee jumps and parachute jumps in my free time. It’s a control thing.
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“When I’m cliff diving I see the water and imagine what it’s like to jump off and as soon I do jump off I know it’s me in control. I trust myself through experience.
“However when these things change and I’m taking other risks I don’t feel nearly as in control.
“When I’m somewhere high and there’s no water underneath…
“Sometimes it’s controllable and I can get to the edge of a balcony and look over.
“But more often than not there’ll be something happening in my brain where I go into the action of imagining myself jumping off.
“If I feel it’s uncontrollable and I will actually jump off the edge there are points I will have to leave the balcony and go somewhere else.
“There’s something inside me that always says jump. There’s something ingrained in my personality just to go for things.
“I have never regretted jumping even when I’ve hurt myself.”
Hunt, 33, who lives in Paris, has battled through the pain barrier before.
His worst accident came in 2010 when his chest smashed into a wave, he could hardly breathe and he ended up with a nasty concussion.
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Then in Ireland this year he continued jumping with a broken rib.
No wonder mum Pamela was worried when he first started and made him ring her after every event.
Hunt says there are “mental demons and a private battle” going on inside his head each time he dives.
But at least he knows he holds the upper hand over pal Tom Daley.
The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist was coming through the ranks on the 10m board when Hunt was looking to switch to cliff diving full time.
How Gary Hunt pulls off his ‘secret weapon’
EVERY diver has a go-to jump they know they can repeat under pressure.
Here, Gary Hunt explains how he pulls off the ‘back triple quad’ – a back triple somersault with four twists – with unerring regularity.
He said: “This is a unique dive. Before this all my dives were something you might see in the Olympics.
“For this I added half a somersault to arrive on my feet and half a twist to be able to see the water.
“All of the dives done until 2009 were a conversion from the 10m board to 27m.
“This was the first one that was solely a cliff dive. It had never been done. It was a step into the unknown.
“It was a big step and it’s been my secret weapon for the last eight years.
“I’ve managed to perform this dive well after a couple of years and I’ve used it in every competition since.”
And he says Daley, a double world champion, hasn’t got what it takes to launch himself from greater heights.
Hunt said: “Tom’s already told me he’s not interested in the slightest.
“He’s happy with his office and I’m happy with mine!
“I always had something in my brain telling me to learn crazy dives and I’m not sure if he has that.
“He’s super talented but not everyone has it in their genes to keep going.”
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