In Bosnia, adrenaline junkies take the plunge

In Bosnia, adrenaline junkies take the plunge
A man jumps from a rock platform during the 'Jump in Kazan' dive competition in Konjic August 17, 2013.

KONJIC - "Even the tiniest mistake can be fatal," warns Said Karalic, a veteran of a daring cliff diving competition that draws the Balkans' most intrepid divers to this Bosnian swimming hole every August.

The site is a steep grey cliff that stands over the river Neretva right in front of the public beach in Konjic, a small town 60 kilometres (34 miles) southwest of capital Sarajevo.

The river runs shallow here except for one "hole" - a pool only two metres (six feet) in diameter and two metres deep surrounded by jagged rocks, a potential death trap under the striking green water.

It is known as the "Kazan" or "pot," where young Konjic men have proved their courage for decades.

Word spread, however, and in the last 16 years it has become an annual "must" for the best divers in the Balkans.

Konjic's 18-meter (59 feet) cliff is far from the tallest in high diving, a discipline only admitted into official competition for the first time this July at the World Aquatic Championships in Barcelona.

But here, there is no room for error as the high diver aims for the small "hole" in otherwise knee-deep waters.

"The flight takes one to two seconds. A man is not a bird, and if we make a mistake we have no time to correct it," says Karalic.

The greying 55-year-old with short-cropped hair knows better than most. A tattoo on his chest of a man plunging head-first in a "swallow", or "swan" dive commemorates his first successful "leap of death" in 2001, a distinction few can claim.

'More the mind, than muscles'

While Konjic's classic high dive is made from 18 meters, those attempting the "leap of death" must climb 25 metres up the cliff before plunging into the "hole". And there are not too many divers who dare.

The Konjic competition has no international standing and the jumpers' only reward is a medal for bravery.

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