The Freediving World is reeling from the news that Natalia Molchanova, the Russian super-Freediver, is missing and presumed dead off the coast of Ibiza. To the Freediving world she is an immediately recognizable name however what was Natalia’s story that brought her to the public’s attention?
Her Early Years and Family
Natalia was born on 8 May 1962 and at an early age started training in a career as a competitive swimmer, however stopped at around 20 to have a 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.
After 20 years of being a dedicated mother she returned to the water – this time shifting to the growing sport of Freediving.
Entry Into Freediving
She exploded onto the scene in 2003 with 2 Russian National Records (Static Apnea – STA – and Dynamic Apnea – DYN) in April and then a World Record in Dynamic Apnea (DYN) of 150m at the Sony Freediver Classic Open in Cyprus – only her second competition!
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She eased into 2004 by resetting her Dynamic Apnea World record to 155m and the switched from pool records to depth records with a collection of European continental records before kicking up a gear and having her most successful year in 2005 with no less than 9 World Records in 6 different disciplines – Static Apnea (STA), Dynamic Apnea (DYN), Dynamic Apnea No Fins (DNF), Free Immersion (FIM), Constant Weight (CWT) and Constant Weight No Fins (CNF) – at this point there was no doubt that there was a new superwoman in the sport of Freediving.
Molchanova was a consistent performer and record setter – 2006 saw 3 x World Records and gold in the Team World Championships, 2007 another 3 x World Records, 2008 5 x World Record and gold in the Team World Championships, 2009 3 x World Records and several gold medals in Individual competitions.
To this point Variable Weight (VWT), made famous by the film “The Big Blue”, had been a discipline that had not fallen to her relentless Record setting – until 2010 where she succeeded to achieve 125m – beating the record held by Tanya Streeter for 7 years at that point.
More Depth World Records fell in 2011 and 2012 including resetting the Variable Weight to 127m. At this point most of her Records were just resetting her previous achievements and her reputation at a “Freediving Machine” was well and truly established.
One of her proudest moments came in 2013 when after she won 3 gold medals in the Individual Pool World Championships in Belgrade – she proudly announced that she had received congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A Freediving Super Hero
All in all Natalia managed to set 41 World Records, achieved 20 individual gold medals and three team gold medals from the Freediving World Championships and was able to hold her breath for over 9 minutes (9min 2secs to be exact).
But she wasn’t just a competitive Freediver – she helped nurture the sport in Russia and globally in her role as president of the Russian Freediving Federation, coach to the Russian Freediving team, an International Level judge with AIDA International, an author of 8 scientific articles and training handbooks related to Freediving and even recently helped run a survey on spirituality and Freediving. She had a PhD in Pedagogical Science and was an associate professor at the Russian State University of Physical Culture, Sport and Tourism.
Her true biography could run to a full book and i’m sure in time that will be the case, however one thing is abundantly clear to those that knew he well… Yes Natalia was an unstoppable, fierce Freediving Record Machine… but she was also one of the smartest, kindest and gentlest people on the planet – and the thing that demonstrates that the most is one line from the recent joint statement from her family and AIDA… “She loved children and was awaiting the day when she would become a Grandmother”.
Natalia Molchanova – we love you.