Rhiannan Iffland started her 2019 season with a surprise win at the El Nido lagoons. Image via Red Bull Media Pool.

Lake Macquarie’s three-time cliff diving champion Rhiannan Iffland has surprised herself with a first-round victory in the 2019 World Series, claiming the crowning spot on the podium at the Phillipines’ Palawan Island.

Iffland beat out Belarusian Yana Nestsiarava, and Canadian Lysanne Richard to claim the highest point haul on offer. It’s the 12th time in 18 events that the Lake Macquarie diver has topped the charts.

It looked like she may have missed out in the opening stop however, as Iffland found herself in third after two rounds at the Small Lagoon. The 27-year-old bounced back with a final attempt however, landing a day-best entry from 21 metres.

Iffland is looking to defend her world title again in 2019.

Although Iffland said she was “super happy” to bag the result, she admitted the win took her a little off-guard considering the outside chance she had after the opening dives.

“I was standing up there and thought the win is a bit out of my reach, but I do like that extra bit of pressure,” she revealed after the event. “It definitely helps me when I’m out on the platform. It helps me to stay calm and collected and enjoy what I do.”

Iffland collected a whopping 329.25 points from her opening round win, while Nestsiarava scored 319.35, and Richard claimed 309.70. Fellow Australian on tour Xantheia Pennisi collected just 209.30 from her eighth place position.

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“It’s a good start, but the rest of the season I’d like to be just as consistent,” Iffland said of her points haul. “I did four consistent dives here in the Philippines. I’d like to carry that on for the rest of the season and I’ll be happy if I can do so.

“Some say it’s not easy, but I actually really enjoy diving off the cliffs; I love being out in nature and I love the extra adrenaline you get standing up on the cliffs. It shows a little bit more versatility with the dives also, so I’m excited that we have two more stops with off the cliffs dives coming up this season.”