The bi-annual AIDA Individual Freediving Depth World Championships are finally here. The opening ceremony is done and the athletes are registering, training and resting themselves in shape for the competition. So what can we expect when the actual diving kicks off on Aug 26? Who should you keep an eye on and who stands the best chance in each discipline?

Read on for our complete guide to the Freediving World Championships.

2017 AIDA Individual Freediving World Championships in Roatan
2017 AIDA Individual Freediving World Championships in Roatan

Location

For the first time, the 2017 World Championships are being hosted in the Americas, just off the Caribbean island of Roatan (Honduras) to be exact.

The World Championships have traditionally been held in the Mediterranean, unfairly some may say, benefiting European divers. Not only are many of them used to the conditions in the Mediterranean with distinct thermoclines and comparatively cooler waters. It also makes a cheap and short trip for the Europeans. And this really matters in a sport where more or less all athletes are self-funded amateurs having not only to cash out for travel and accommodation but also to take time off work.

As a result, this year we are seeing the biggest number of Americans ever in the World Championships, not only from the USA (11 athletes) but from Canada, Mexico, South and Central America as well with divers from Argentina (5 athletes), Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru. I find this really inspiring and important for the international growth of the sport.

Schedule

All competition dives will be completed during 8 days according to the following schedule.

  • Aug 26: Women Free Immersion (FIM)
  • Aug 27: Men Free Immersion (FIM)
  • Aug 28: Training Day
  • Aug 29: Women Constant Weight (CWT)
  • Aug 30: Men Constant Weight (CWT)
  • Aug 31: Training Day
  • Sep 1: Women Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF)
  • Sep 2: Men Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF)

RELATED: Freediving Disciplines Explained

One dive per athlete and discipline leaves no room for error. No joking around here. To walk away with a medal you have to stay sharp and deliver under pressure, while of course staying completely relaxed to conserve O2, successfully equalize all the way to the bottom and manage the pressure from the ocean. Does it sound challenging? Well, it is. But these guys are up to the challenge.

Athletes

So who should we be looking out for? Let’s start with my top picks from the ladies.

Alessia Zecchini. Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Alessia Zecchini. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Free Immersion (FIM)

An extremely competitive discipline. With World Record holder Jeanine Grasmeijer (at 92m) not in the competition, the field is wide open for a group of women.

  • Sofia Gomez Uribe – Colombia [Current Top Dive: 86m Blue Element 2016]
    Along with Sayuri Kinoshita Sofia is one of the strongest divers in the world with a CMAS bi-fins CWT record of 83m. Big bi-fins dives always impressed me. Sofia is also the highest ranked FIM diver in the competition and did an 84m dive in Caribbean Cup a few days ago. It looks good for her.
  • Jessea Lu – China [Current Top Dive: 85m Caribbean Cup 2016]
    Jessea had a great Caribbean Cup coming out as the overall winner with a new 85m FIM NR for China standing out. With her current form, Jessea is a candidate for the gold.
  • Kate Middleton – New Zeeland [Current Top Dive: 84m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    As gold medalist from VB2017 and silver medalist from WC 2015, Kate has proven that she can deliver under pressure. Kate rarely turns early and with her depth and routine, she is a serious contender for the gold.
  • Sayuri Kinoshita – Japan [Current Top Dive: 83m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    Sayuri battled with Kate for the FIM Gold medal in VB 2017 but lost out with 1m only. A good day she can win.
  • Tomoka Fukuda – Japan [Current Top Dive: 81m Caribbean Cup 2016] 
    I am not entirely sure about Tomoka’s form as I haven’t seen much results from her this year. She announced 83m which would then have been a National Record for Japan at VB 2017 but turned early at 73m. She didn’t dive anymore in the competition after that, possibly injured. But she should have the capacity to compete for the medals if she’s in form.
Jessea Lu. Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Jessea Lu. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Constant Weight (CWT)

Tough competition and probably a dive past 100m will be needed for gold.

  • Alessia Zecchini – Italy [Current Top Dive: World Record holder with 104m] 
    She is no doubt a strong diver, but her record was set at Vertical Blue in May, a competition that allows for several attempts over many days. Alessia blacked out in her first 2 attempts before getting her then world record of 102m and later turned early before succeeding in her 2nd attempt on 104m. No room for that here in the Worlds.
  • Alenka Artnik – Slovenia [Current Top Dive: 100m Caribbean Cup 2017]
    New 100m diver from only a few days ago at the Caribbean Cup. Obviously in a very good form.
  • Kate Middleton – New Zeeland [Current Top Dive: 97m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    Kate had a bit of a break from diving in the summer but it sure looks like she is back in peak performance again after another 97m dive at the Caribbean Cup a few days ago. Just like Sayuri Kinoshita, Kate has a lot of routine from big competitions and is used to perform under pressure.
  • Sayuri Kinoshita – Japan [Current Top Dive: 96m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    Incredibly strong diver with an official personal best of 96m from VB 2017. Has potential for more. She later announced 101m in VB 2017 but turned early. Carries a lot of routine.
Sayuri Kinoshita. Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Sayuri Kinoshita. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF)

The least competitive discipline for the women.

  • Sayuri Kinoshita – Japan [Current Top Dive: 72m Vertical Blue 2016] 
    World Record holder. Strong diver with a lot of routine. If she does her job the gold is hers.
  • Amber Bourke – Australia [Current Top Dive: 68m Caribbean Cup 2017] 
    Amber Bourke put on a very strong Caribbean Cup with her 68m CNF dive standing out the most. This will bring her up to 2nd place of active athletes on the AIDA ranking (not considering the late Natalia Molchanova’s 71m)
  • Jessea Lu – China [Current Top Dive: 60m Vertical Blue 2016]
    Behind Sayuri and Amber, it’s a bit of a step to the next contender. Jessea did a 52m dive in the Caribbean Cup a few days ago and while not competing for the gold she has a good chance of a medal.
  • Jennifer Wendland – Germany [Current Top Dive: 55m Caribbean Cup 2017] 
    As well as her Caribbean Cup 2017, she was the overall bronze medalist in the 2015 World Championships. Nothing to do with the gold but Jennifer competes for a medal after equaling Anna von Boetticher’s German NR with her 55m dive.
  • Anna von Boetticher Germany [Current Top Dive: 55m Vertical Blue 2017]
    Anna has a chance on a medal though I am not sure about her current form. She announced 54m in the Caribbean Cup but didn’t show. Maybe saving her energy.

So what about the men?

Free Immersion (FIM)

This is the maybe the most open discipline among the men where Alexey Molchanov and William Trubridge otherwise tend to dominate.

  • Alexey Molchanov – Russia [Current Top Dive: 124m from Vertical Blue 2017 and equal to current World Record]
    Alexey seems to be in a great shape and did a clean 117m dive in the Caribbean Cup a few days ago, but was later disqualified after a successfully filed protest on technicalities in the surface protocol. Zero points in that comp but a statement on form nevertheless.
  • William Trubridge – New Zeeland [Current Top Dive: 124m Vertical Blue 2016 and current World Record]
    William has the World Record from 2016 but Alexey equaled it earlier this year and has dived deeper than William in competition this year. William did 114m in the Caribbean Cup. Advantage Alexey.
  • Walid Boudhiaf – Tunisia [Current Top Dive: 116m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    With Miguel Lozano – Spain (122m) not in the competition, Walid is the only man that should be able to challenge Alexey and William for the gold. Walid announced 122m in Caribbean Cup but blacked out and got disqualified. Still, he is knocking on the door to the 120m+ and might just get it right this time.
Alexey Molchanov descending into the deep (photo © Daan Verhoeven)
Alexey Molchanov descending into the deep (photo © Daan Verhoeven)

Behind this trio there is a steep step down to the nearest followers but should any one from the above trio screw up there will be tough competition for the scraps from Thibault Guignes – France (105m), Morgan Bourghis – France (104m), Stig Pryds – Denmark (102m), Michael Board – UK (100m) and Martin Zajak – Slovakia (100m)

Constant Weight (CWT)

This discipline belongs to Alexey Molchanov. Only an early turn or disqualification will leave the opportunity for someone else on the gold.

  • Alexey Molchanov – Russia [Current Top Dive: 129m Big Blue World Cup 2016]
    Dominant in the discipline. I have seen him dive to 130m outside of competition making it look easy. He has booked the gold already. The question is if he is going to play it safe or go for glory with a record attempt?
  • William Trubridge – New Zeeland [Current Top Dive: 121m Vertical Blue 2012] 
    CWT is not William’s favorite discipline. He doesn’t have the leg strength or technique needed to challenge Alexey but he is a deep CWT diver still, even though his deepest 121m dive was a whopping 5 years ago.
  • David Mullins – New Zealand  [Current Top Dive: 125m Kalamata Open 2013]
    Dave has dived very deep, but it was a few years ago and he hasn’t competed outside New Zeeland for a while before the Caribbean Cup. He did set an unofficial World Record in lakes with a 105m CWT dive in Lake Tapau, New Zeeland earlier this year. In the Caribbean Cup, he announced 115m Day 1 and 2 and 110m on day 3 but didn’t make it pass 99m at best in day 3. He has a lot of routine from big competition and has a held a few World Records in his heydays. If he gets everything in place he is a serious contender. It will be very interesting to see what he can do.
  • Michael Board – UK [Current Top Dive: 108m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    Mike had a very successful VB earlier this year with a new 108m National Record for the UK in CWT and 100m in FIM. He announced 108m at the Caribbean Cup but turned early at 104. He lives and trains on Gili Trawangan, Indonesia with great dive conditions. He has been training very hard this year guided by last World Championship overall winner Goran Çolak. It wouldn’t surprise me if he walks away with a medal.
  • Stéphane Tourreau – France [Current Top Dive: 107m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    Stéphane did 95m in the Caribbean Cup and announced 97m for the last day but didn’t show. It seems like he hasn’t peaked his performance for this competition. Or is he just saving his energy?
  • Aolin Wang – China  [Current Top Dive: 106m Caribbean Cup 2017]
    Aolin has improved rapidly over the last 16 months. Last year he started by setting a National Record for China with an 80m dive at Vertical Blue 2016. He has since been pushing that record deeper and deeper until the current 106m dive in his second attempt during the Caribbean Cup. A very impressive development. With a good day, he can grab a medal.
  • Morgan Bourghis – France [Current Top Dive: 106m 9th Mediterranean World Cup 2016] 
    Morgan did 98m in VB 2017 and hasn’t dived deeper in competition since. If he peeked his form he might have a chance on the bronze.
Aolin Wang. Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Aolin Wang. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF)

William Trubridge dominates this discipline with a World Record of 102m and as the only man below 100m.

  • William Trubridge – New Zealand [Current Top Dive: 102m World Record Attempt in Dean’s Blue Hole 2016] 
    William also has good memories from Roatan which is the only place outside of his back yard Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas where he has dived to 100m. If he’s in shape the gold is his.
  • Alexey Molchanov – Russia [Current Top Dive: 96m Caribbean Cup 2014] 
    Even though Alexey was only 1m behind William with a 90m dive in VB2017 William is not going to let this one slip. Alexey can keep his eyes on the silver.
  • Morgan Bourghis – France [Current Top Dive: 90m 2015 AIDA Depth World Championships Pre-competition] 
    Morgan is the biggest challenge to the two giants. He took bronze with an 88m dive in VB2017 and might as well do the same here.
  • Dean Chaouche – UK [Current Top Dive: 80m Vertical Blue 2017] 
    After the three gentlemen above it’s a bit of a jump down to the next contender. Dean is a disciple of William Trubridge and trains with him in Dean’s Blue Hole. If one of the top guys slip Dean’s got a chance on a bronze.
William Trubridge at Vertical Blue 2017 - photo by Daan Verhoeven
William Trubridge at Vertical Blue 2017 – photo by Daan Verhoeven

Overall Winners – Our Predictions

This is a tricky one as a little slip can knock you off the podium in a heartbeat and therefore surprises are to be expected. I’m not going to speculate on all values of medals but I will keep it to my expected winners.

Women: Sayuri Kinoshita – Japan

Sayuri Kinoshita. Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Sayuri Kinoshita. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Close to the very top in every discipline and outstanding in Constant Weight No-Fins (CNF). She left with a gold medal in 2015 and if she plays her cards right she’ll do it again.

Men: Alexey Molchanov – Russia

Alexey Molchanov. Photo by Daan Verhoeven
Alexey Molchanov. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Capacity for top results in all disciplines and outstanding in Constant Weight (CWT). Only a bronze medal in 2015, but he is a better and more dominant diver now.

Let the games begin!

Read all the action from the 2017 Caribbean Cup & AIDA Individual World Championships in Roatan.

Photos Courtesy of Daan Verhoeven

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