The Adriatic Freediving Trophy was the national freediving championship of Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Hungary. Held this past September in Croatia, the competition took place at the deepest point of Kvarner in the Krušija canal near the island of Plavnik, where the sea rift descends to 120 meters.
Considering the many constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the myriad challenges of international travel and even border crossings, it is remarkable the event posted 29 performances on the final day of the comp.
With more than half of the announced athletes not able to attend or start because of travel restrictions, the good news is that freedivers from Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Turkey, Morocco, France, Sweden, Russia, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria were actually able to participate making the Adriatic Freediving Trophy the largest competition of an otherwise uncertain year for freediving as a sport.
The challenge of safely executing a world-class event in such a tumultuous year was eagerly & adeptly met by organizers Igor Hrast from the Activity Center Krk and the City of Krk and Vitomir Maricic, the President of AIDA Croatia.
Vitor Maricic shared with DeeperBlue.com:
“Everyone who has ever tried knows that when producing a depth competition, especially an international one, there are a significant number of technical details that need to be followed.
Especially when creating a “history-making” event such as the ‘Adriatic Depth Trophy’ where the standards needed to be at the highest levels, with two separate competition lines, transfers for every competitor, a comprehensive medical team and a double judge and safety setup, thorough evacuation protocols and plans. Then you compound it with attempting to do all of the above during a time of extreme complications due to COVID, and it all becomes much harder and even more stressful with daily changes to everything.
I will not say that it was smooth or easy, but when almost every competitor tells you that this is their best experience and that they felt it was well organized, that the atmosphere was fantastic and that they had a great time… Well then everything is somehow balanced, and you get the wind in your sails to continue the story next year. I’m also very proud to have motivated novice freedivers to approach competitions for their first time.
I consider it a triumph to have brought together some of my friends (who happen to be the best divers in the world!) to not only participate but to also inspire everyone. I lost count of the many national records we achieved and having a World Record set at the event was just a cherry on top!
It is going to be tough next year to surpass our impressive 2020 outcomes — but we will try.”
In the women’s competition, the best dives were made by the current world champion Fatima Korok from Hungary, Sahika Ercumen from Turkey, and Vendula Strachtova from the Czech Republic.
In the end, Fatima earned the top position on the podium as the best female overall, and she set a national record for Hungary with a bi-fins dive to 67 meters. Sahika Ercumen also set a national record for Turkey in bi-fins. Vendula Strachtova placed third overall.
As for the men, a battle between freediving giants Thibault Guignes of France and Alexey Molchoanov of Russia was highly anticipated. However, in the end, due to weather conditions changing, the first day being canceled, Alexey getting stuck in transit and arriving only on the last day, lady luck turned to last year’s winner Vitomir Maricic who garnered the most points from 3 disciplines and won the overall title for the second year in a row. Petar Klovar from Croatia was the star of his national team as he achieved an outstanding result — a national record in the discipline of Free Immersion (FIM) with a white card dive to 100m.
Ultimately, late comer Alexey Molchanov dove to a new world record of 111m in the discipline of Constant Weight Bi-fins (CWTB) discipline, which was even more impressive given that the sea was darker, colder, and more turbulent when he finally arrived but the Russian was extremely confident in his abilities and was well prepared from training in cold lakes and the Black Sea. Second place overall went to Petr Vala, a Czech who set an unofficial world record in the Masters’ category, and in third was Minja Marinkovic from Germany.
Vitor Maricic continued:
“It’s not easy to be in the organization of an event and a competitor at the same event so I decided to take this as a good training session and try to do solid results every day without dramatically pushing any limits, it turned out that I was the first overall, but for me, the most important dive, not counting Alexey, was the one by Petar Klovar, which we wished for and expected for whole summer and that is a really great result.
Petar is engaged in the Rijeka diving club Ocean and through this club, we are trying to promote this sport in the winter, so I hope that this will be an additional wind in his back and motivation to continue diving. There is nothing more to say about Alexey’s world record, Alexey is a great champion and the way he performed confirms this. He continues to push the boundaries of diving ever deeper, ever further.
With his approach to diving and competition, he is not only a respected freediving ambassador but an accomplished sports ambassador in general. It was important for me to compete because we had limited opportunities this year, because of travel restrictions in the other competitions in Croatia I was the judge, and I like competing much more. I didn’t expect to win overall this year, but I don’t mind it either!
What is most important to me for this event, and really for any event, is the building of community, cooperation, and support among freedivers. I just love it when everyone is helping each other out with gear, coaching, advice, and celebrating all of the dives together. This is such a huge learning opportunity for beginners.
A great example of this camaraderie came when we had to cancel the first day because of bad weather. Thibault Guignes offered a free masterclass in FIM training for everyone, generously sharing his expertise — such a tremendous gesture and great idea from a seasoned competitor like Thibault is of invaluable benefit to us all.”
This competition was also ground-breaking because all of the disciplines were verified according to both the AIDA and CMAS rules, at the same time. This unification of these governing sports bodies is truly special — a historic step forward to unifying the previously separate freediving formats. It is now possible that the combined model can be used in future competitions.
“What we have managed to do is (I think) a precedent in freediving and will potentially change the course of competition and sport, this is a great victory that was made possible thanks to the excellent cooperation of AIDA Croatia with the Slovenian federation, which is a partner behind the CMAS part of the competition and provides us with the support and excellent judges who understand the issues and are ready to expand horizons in a positive direction.”
“As the main judge, Vedran Milat was ideal because he has a long history of representing both AIDA and CMAS as an official judge, and in order to have the correct status for a world record, we brought Petar Bojovic from Serbia, an A level WR qualified AIDA judge. Maja Božicek the president of AIDA Slovenia, and Lidija Lijic of Croatia rounded out the judging team.
The experience levels of all of these judges gave me (the organizer) a peace-of-mind that things would be done properly and according to the highest standards. Maja Božicek is super active with national AIDA and all forms of competitions and she is an essential part of our team in all big events, and as an experienced pro athlete herself, Lidija can really approach and help athletes from a different angle.”
The event also served as a platform for research in the field of medicine and the culmination of a cooperative effort formed between the organizers and a team of doctors that have been following the AIDA Croatia athletes for a while.
Dr. Igor Barkovic, the official doctor of the ADT, had this to say:
“The ‘Adriatic Freediving Trophy’ was impeccably organized and the conditions were fantastic, the base of the competition was a large boat on which we had all the necessary medical equipment. At all times, the competition was monitored by a whole team of doctors and nurses. The competition brought together a large number of competitors of the world’s elite who were willing to participate in medical and scientific research and we were given an unusual opportunity to collect scientific data of great use. A group of enthusiastic research doctors also gathered spontaneously and piqued their interest in examining these athletes.”
Dr. Barkovic went on to explain:
“The team from the Center for Research and Education in Underwater, Hyperbaric and Marine Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka examined the impact of deep dives and breath-holding on lung volumes, perfusion, arterial blood gases and pulmonary barotrauma and mechanisms of body adaptation to such extreme conditions. As a curiosity, we can state that for the first time in the world arterial blood was drawn at a depth of 60 m.
The team from Thalassotherapy Opatija and the Department of Sports and Rehabilitation Medicine studied various aspects of the impact of extreme conditions on the endocrine and cardiovascular system. Dr. Turk Wensveen monitored the supraphysiological activation of the adrenal gland and thyroid gland, cardiologists prof. Peršic, Dr. Travica Samsa, and Dr. Ivaniš conducted a series of functional heart tests. Prof. Wensveen, an immunologist at the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka, examined the effect of extreme conditions on immune cells.
Although each from the aspect of his specialization, all together, through teamwork we strive to gain scientific knowledge that will help the safety of freediving, improve competitive results, and also help people suffering from lung, cardiovascular and endocrine diseases.
I thank all the competitors, organizers, judges, insurance, scientists for their goodwill, for the positive atmosphere, for their efforts, and for a very pleasant time. I hope to see you next year!“
All the results daily feeds, and image galleries can be found on the official page of the event www.adriaticfreediving.com