Day 5 of AIDA Depth Freediving World Championships – Women’s and Men’s Constant Weight (CWT) discipline – presented beautiful conditions making way for the best of the best to step up. The usual athlete’s protests were overshadowed by the reaction to Japanese diver Hanoko Hirose performance in the competition.
Hanako Hirose (Japan) was the first to dive with an announced depth of 101m. She experienced a tough surface protocol and was initially award a white card for the gold medal, however, a blackout at the surface saw safety divers’ step in after 50 seconds to prise her hands of the line and was administer oxygen as they assisted her to the medical boat for treatment. She was later taken to hospital to ensure she was fine.
Hanako’s white card announcement was the subject of review and later protests from other athletes and the safety team, resulting in Pierre Frolla (the Head of Safety) threatening the safety would walk-out if her card was not revoked and replaced with a red card disqualification. After several hours of deliberation, it was controversially determined that the safety team intervened after Hanako suffered a blackout, and hence given a red card. This meant that Marianne Gillespie (Russia) takes the gold with her diver to 90m.
Natalia Zharkova (Ukraine) was next up on the line with an announcement of 101m but she turned early at 86m and was awarded a yellow card.
Jessea Lu (China) scored a silver medal, as well as a National Record, after a successful dive to 88m and was awarded a white card for her dive in spite of meeting a jellyfish upon her ascent that stung her face.
Alice Modolo (France) scored bronze with an 87m dive and white card.
Final Results for the day are:
National Records set during the fifth day were:
- Jessea Lu (China) 88m
- Fatima Karok (Hungary) 78m
- Isabel Sanchez (Spain) 70m
A media storm set social media alight as the French press reported that Alice Modolo (France), 4th place at the time with a successful dive of 87m (one meter below her National Record achieved at Vertical Blue 2018) claiming she had been robbed of her title by a diver that ended in hospital.
Organizer Claude Chapuis said:
“The safety divers could not act at the time as the AIDA rules say that that a safety diver must wait for the mouth to be submerged in order to step I and initiate a rescue.”
Pierre Frolla, Head of Safety, took it a step further and in a passionate explosion announced that the safety team had no other option but to threaten strike action if Hanako Hirose’s (Japan) white card was not revoked due to the bad image it portrays to the world.
In the athletes’ meeting during the afternoon Folla stated:
“I can’t accept that as an athlete and a free diver, as a teacher, a student as a father, you have to discuss what happened today and what you decided about the white card when she going to the doctor. Because if you do not act then me and the freedivers will not act. We will leave. What is most important is not the placing, it’s the safety. Just think about what you saw today. Be sure that your decision will be made with the competition in mind.”
An official who was on the platform at the time of Hanoko surfacing reacted to the strike action:
“If the safety team were so concerned with the welfare of the athletes why had they waited until the day of the completion to erect the dive platform, in the process foregoing any training alongside the athletes.”
The source also commented that
“…during the Men’s Constant Weight No Fins (CNF) there was no intervention for Miguel Lozano (Spain) or Will Trubridge (New Zealand) when they were clearly in need of assistance to the surface due to blackouts. Hanako did not blackout, she had narcosis, was hypercapnic and she attended hospital as a precaution because we care for the athletes.”
After 20 minutes discussion between judges and organizers, the athletes received news Hanoko had been disqualified from the competition as the judge did not show a white card. A public apology was then issued from Pierre Frolla, Claude Chapuis and all the Judges alongside a verbal agreement that the competition would not be held at ransom again by organizers.
Pierre Frolla was heard saying “We are not here to change the rules we are here to maintain the image of the sport.”
Marco Consentino, Head of Safety for AIDA International, commented on the proceedings on the AIDA International Facebook Group:
“Arrogance is among the most annoying human behaviors. Every day the arrogant prowls among the crowd with the pretence of being the best, the first one, has the right to proceed. you do not know who I am”
I do not know who you are, but I do not know what a Safety professional should be:
Safety should be invisible, Safety should protect and support the Athletes, Safety should be point of reference for judges and Athletes, Safety should embody the real essence of the words honor and pride.
Hanako performance could have been red card, yes, but signing a question about the result of an athlete and threatening to withdraw from the safety of the team is not questionable …. NO … it should be the other way around, the Athletes should retire and tomorrow they should not dive!
This is one of the darkest pages in the history of this sport. #donotdivetomorrow”
In other news, William Trubridge (New Zealand) has withdrawn from the competition thanking sponsors Orca and Suunto for being by his side after two red cards this championship.
We move into the final two days of this dramatic competition with the final Men’s Constant Weight (CWT) diving day.
Photos by Guillaume Esteve