The Man Who Was Superman For One Day

Superman for a day.

Superman for a day.

The above photo of Michal Navratil plummeting from a height of 27 meters (88.6 feet) at the High Diving World Championships in Barcelona in his Superman suit went viral a few days ago (I saw it on SportsCenter, for example). The 28-year-old Czech did an interview with Esquire about his lofty profession of cliff diver.

ESQUIRE:  How did you get started with cliff diving?  When did you do it for the first time?Michael Navratil: I started with my first twenty meter when I was 18 years old in the European Championships, in Switzerland, and there I did my first somersault from that height. Afterwards I kept progressing in height and quality of the diving, and five years later I went for the first competition from 28 meters, Marmeeting in Amalfi coast (Italy).

ESQUIRE:  How do you build up to such intense heights?  Is there a learning curve as you go higher and higher?

MN:  Definitely, your body needs to get used to the pressure of the impact progressively. Every meter that you go higher, the impact is stronger and harder, so I had to prepare myself physically and mentally. The higher you go, the more every meter makes a difference.

ESQUIRE:  Have you ever been hurt?

MN:  Yes a few times!  Five years ago I went to work on a show in China, and I was doing it three times a day. My mind was strong but my body was tired and in one of the high dives from 26 meters I twisted my ankle under water and for ten days I couldn’t step on it… But in two weeks I was diving again, landing head first for a while. Every impact is a lesson on how to protect yourself from the water. Another bad injury was learning to do a handstand from 15 meters, also in China. I was short on my landing and was coughing blood for a week! Still two days after this crash I dived from 20 meters and in another three days I went up to 26 meters, even though my body was injured I was learning a new competition dive and my mind was ready for it. Last bad injury was last year in Boston Red Bull Series stop, I tried a new dive ending in a blind entry three times, and I injured my lower back and my heels badly; I was in pain for the next three months and it really affected my results towards the end of the season.

Read the rest of the interview here.