MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — To say that the high-diving competition that starts on a historic bridge and ends in a fast-flowing river is the pride of a city in southern Bosnia underestimates the resilience it’s required to keep the tradition going.
For centuries, the annual contest in Mostar has been drawing crowds eager to witness the daring skills perfected by generations of relatives and neighbors.
The Old Bridge, originally built by the Ottomans in 1566, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was destroyed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, but was painstakingly rebuilt after the conflict.
Each summer, a few dozen men enter the contest to take a 27-meter (89-foot) plunge from the bridge into the cold, Neretva River.
Organizers said the competition held Sunday was the 452nd. Anticipation grew as divers took turns in regular feet-down jumps or the eagle dive typical of Mostar.
A panel of judges picks the winner. For an ordinary jump, creating the smallest possible splash scores points. But in the eagle dive category, the bigger and louder the splash, the better.
A Mostar native, Lorens Listo, claimed the title for the second year in a row, his 12th award since he started competing 19 years ago. The crowds cheered he was proclaimed the winner, but went silent to watch Listo’s victory dive.
“Every new victory is dearer to me every year!” he said.
The trip from the top of the bridge river lasts nearly three seconds and divers reach a speed of around 80 kph (50 mph) during their falls.