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PFD Cayman 2004: The Night Before

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I was more than a bit surprised when it turned out that the people delegated to pick me up at the airport were the athletes themselves. I landed on Grand Cayman in the early evening after a flight from Miami that took less time than my drive to the airport had, and expected to find a taxi driver with my name on a hand-lettered sign waiting outside Customs.

Instead, Mandy Rae Cruickshank and Martin Stepanek pulled up in a white van, Mandy at the wheel.

"Paul !"




Matter of fact. As if they were co-workers picking me up from the bus station. No big. Why in the world have they, of all people, driven out to fetch me ?

"Everybody else is at a big meeting", explained Mandy as she drove away, taking delight in splashing through the puddles in the road. " Rained hard today".

I consider it – Mandy Rae has reached 77m constant ballast in training, a full 7 meters beyond the current womens’ world record. Martin has reached the historic 100m mark. They are both very, very serene.

The crew briefing, conducted by Kirk Krack, was still underway when we arrived. Safety divers, videographers, boat captain and and crew, medical personnel, the entire small army required to pull it off. Everybody looks sharp, focussed, attentive. All new faces to me, except for photographer Courtney Platt, longtime Cayman resident, and AIDA Judge Bill Stromberg.

We had a late dinner after the briefing, and then headed for a good night’s sleep.

Eveything seems very much in order, except, possibly, the weather. A bit unruly. Nevertheless, it looks like a go for tomorrow, the first of the seven days in the event window.

Kirk: " Tomorrow ? Just another training day."

But it isn’t, really. Tomorrow, Mandy Rae is looking to blast the womens’ constant ballast record a full 7 meters higher, and Martin to add a third digit to the absolute CB mark. This is big, big stuff.

I wish I were as calm as they seem to be. Or as steady as "Doc" George Lopez, the third Performance Freediving athlete who is, by the way, slated to claim the U.S. men’s Free Immersion record. I want to know what’s going through his mind on the eve of a record dive. Doc wants to talk to me about writing.

They are in the zone, these three.

Stay tuned.

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Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for He lives in Florida, USA with his family.