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Natalia Molchanova Missing – What We Know So Far

Russian Freediving World Champion Natalia Molchanova went missing after failing to return from a dive whilst teaching a Freediving course for Russian Tycoon Pravel Tyo off Formentera, a Spanish island near Ibiza in the Mediterranean.  Here are the facts known so far:

Who Was Natalia Molchanova?

Natalia Molchanova and her older sister Reena as Children
Natalia Molchanova and her older sister Reena as Children

Moscow based Molchanova is a 41 x World Champion with records in every single competitive discipline apart from No Limits (NLT).  She also has 20 individual gold medals and two team gold medals from various Freediving World Championships.

She started her career as a competitive swimmer before taking a break for 20 years to bring up her family – she was a dedicated and caring mother to two children – a daughter Oksana and a son Alexey.  Alexey grew up to follow in his mothers footsteps and become a multiple World Champion Freediver in his own right.

Where Did She Go Missing?

According to the original official statement issued by AIDA International and the Molchanova family:

Natalia Molchanova was recreationally freediving off the coast of Spain on August 2, 2015 when she was separated from her peers. She disappeared while diving approximately two miles northwest of the port of La Savina at Poniente de es Freus.

However it has since become clear that she was in the area teaching a Freediving course.

Local sources have said that the area was known for strong currents and boat traffic in the summer months.

Who Was She With?

The champion Freediver was on the island running a Freediving course for the Russian Tycoon, Pavel Tyo, one of the co-owners of the Capital Group.  Local sources tell us that he has a house on Ibiza in an area called Roca Llisa as well as a 50m super-yacht called “Pumpkin”.  We know that Pavel was in the water with Natalia when she went missing.  The identity of the other two divers is unknown at this time.

What Happened?

Natalia Molchanova Prior To World Record Dive
Natalia Molchanova Prior To World Record Dive

Details are still scarce.  Some details came from the official statement:

She was diving without fins to around 30 to 40m and supposedly got into strong underwater current.

Since the official statement was issues her son, Alexey, has spoken to the NY Times and we know that she was diving without fins in a discipline called “Constant Weight No Fins” and was with 3 other divers, one of which was Russian Tycoon Pavel Tyo.  The group was diving off a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with a line in the water.  The area is known for strong currents and after one dive she failed to surface.

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As she was teaching a Freediving course by herself there is a good chance she was the only experienced in Freediving and it’s safety protocols and as she went missing in a current the indication is she was not using a standard piece of Freediving safety equipment, called a lanyard, that would have secured her to the line.

Is The Search Over?

Not yet but it is significantly reduced to only a surface search.

The search and rescue operation started immediately on Sunday afternoon and included staff from the super-yacht “Pumpkin” as well as marine police, maritime rescue and a Helimar 213 helicopter.  A special search and rescue company with underwater robots capable of searching large areas of up to 500m at depth was initially contracted by Alexey Molchanov to assist.

The underwater search was suspended on Tuesday evening with the surface search ongoing by the local Search and Rescue services.

However, the rescuers are are not hopeful of finding her alive. Antonio Buendía, head of the local Maritime Search and Rescue Unit in Ibiza, had this to say to a local newspaper:

“Everything suggests that the sea has dragged the body of the record holder away from the point where it disappeared. In any case, hope is the last to die and it is still possible that the body appears to float in the next three or four days.”

The Freediving Community

Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and the Freediving community is hoping beyond hope that she returns to us.

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Bluside Image and Natalia Molchanova Quote
Bluside Image and Natalia Molchanova Quote
Stephan Whelan
Stephan Whelan
Stephan is the Founder of His passion for the underwater world started at 8 years old with a try-dive in a hotel pool on holiday that soon formulated into a lifelong love affair with the oceans. In 1996 he set up and has grown the site to be the most popular diving website and community in the world.