Daredevils take the plunge in Cliff Diving World Series

Cliff diving is just about as dangerous as it sounds.

Its athletes are adrenaline junkies who hit the water with a force nine times harder than the indoor divers at the Olympics.

In Texas, the finals of the U.S. leg of the Cliff Diving World Series get underway Saturday.

Divers representing 11 countries will all be vying for the cliff diving crown.

The divers will be jumping off the rugged limestone cliffs west of Dallas, called "Hell's Gate."

The winner of the series will take home a cash prize of more than $20,000.

The tallest platform on the cliffs is nine stories high, and divers hit the water at frightening speeds of more than 50 miles per hour.

"If fear is completely gone, then you've got a problem," said U.S. cliff diver David Colturi.

Colturi started cliff diving just a few years ago. Now he's representing the U.S. at this year's competition.

"All of us love that feeling of flying through the air, flipping and twisting, getting a little bit out of control and then bringing it all together and hitting the water in a tight position," he said.

The athletes come from all over the world.

Mat Cowen from England was the only man to do a backward dive Thursday.

"I mean, there's a million emotions going up there. You've got the adrenaline, the pressure and then when you take off your body just takes over," Cowen said.

Men have historically dominated this dangerous sport. But now, for the first time on U.S. soil, women are competing.

"A lot of diving is mental. I'm thinking in my head how do I do this dive? And then if you do it well, or if you do it safely, it's a accomplishment," said cliff diver Ginger Huber.

As the divers plunge from the platform, a panel of judges watches every twist and turn.

"You're looking at the takeoff. You want to see a strong jump, good flight, that there's no bobbles in the middle there and then entry, if it's straight up and down with very little splash," said Greg Louganis, Olympic diving champion and one of the judges for this year's competition.

Louganis hopes cliff diving could eventually become an Olympic event.

"Athletes are really upping their game, and they're doing many more somersaults. It's much more technical. They're going beyond what they're doing in the Olympic Games," said Louganis.

In the meantime, this competition is the pinnacle of the sport.

"It's an experience like no other. I mean, you're sharing every emotion on the spectrum. You're going from absolutely terrified to incredibly elated after a competition after doing a dive well," Colturi said.

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