Orlando Duque was born in Cali on September 11, 1974, and had his first contact with the sport that would play such a huge role in his life before he turned ten years old.
While playing football on an improvised pitch a woman approached him and his friends and offered them t-shirts in exchange for joining a political campaign. At the end of the day that same woman climbed up the diving board and made a majestic dive into the pool. The young Orlando and his friends were flabbergasted and went to check out the diving every day after football.
The woman, who was the girlfriend of one of the trainers, spotted them and invited them to join a training session. They did one jump at the end of the day and Duque never left the water again. His friends didn’t continue for long but Duque kept training and soon entered the youth teams.
The young Orlando went to the pool every day by foot to save on bus money so that he could buy a soda after training. His mum joined him on the overnight buses to national championships, which he soon started winning, event after event. It was a costly business, so when he got the opportunity to make some money doing a jump from 27 metres for a show in Cali, he took his chance. The organiser was closely connected to a theme park in Austria and made him an offer. Aged 19, he went to Europe to do shows containing spectacular jumps.
He started making some money through the sport but it wasn’t until 1999 that he really started to make a name for himself. He found out about the World Championship cliff diving taking place in Switzerland by chance and insisted the company let him go there. Obtaining second place attracted attention from bigger parties.
Red Bull hired and sponsored him to join the cliff diving tour around the world. In 2000 he won his first World Championship and got his first Guinness Book of Records mention as the only man ever to have made a ‘perfect dive’ – getting the maximum 10 points from all judges. With 12 World Championship titles in a sport that is slowly gaining attention on the world stage, he recently got his second mention in the Guinness Book of Records as the most decorated diver in history, getting every possible title at the highest level in his sport. In 2006 Austrian director Mario Kreuzer launched a movie about Orlando Duque called Nine Dives, which told Duque’s story through nine of his dives around the world.