The Freedive Show — Part VI

Women’s Static Apnea

In the last installment of the Freedive Show, we introduced the idea of a 6’40 barrier, highlighting the few men who have performed statics over 6’40. The current women’s static world record is 6’16, set by Mandy-Rae Cruickshank of Canada in 2002.  It was rumoured that Tanya Streeter had claimed to have reached 7’00 in training while in Guadeloupe in 2001 (she later cancelled her static world record attempt) and an obscure Italian website mentions that Chaty Monges of Reunion achieved 6’48 in 1997. Sylvia Da Bon of Italy reached 6’07 and 6’09 back in 2001, trying to break the women’s static world record of 6’02, but was disqualified for loss of motor control in both attempts. (She made both attempts on the same day!) For the most part, the women’s barrier in competition seems to be stuck at 5’00.

By far, most women tend to max out in static at between 4’00 and 4’30. At the Kona World Cup, there were only ten women with statics over 4’30.  In Ibiza, eighteen surpassed 4’30, however, all the top women were in attendance, including the Canadian, Italian and Brazilian women’s teams.   Women’s static apnea is definitely an discipline ready for improvement.

Here are the top static apnea performances by women at AIDA sanctioned competitions who will be competing in Cyprus.

If you take away the national competitions, there are only five women competing at Cyprus who have recorded statics over five minutes at a major international AIDA competition.  Only two women have ever done statics over six minutes.  You might think that with Mandy-Rae Cruickshank and Karoline Dal Toe unable to compete at the Sony Freediver Open Classic, the world record is safe and the winner will win with a static performance in the mid-five minute range. But women’s participation is increasing every year and it is obvious that none of the freedivers on this short list can rest on their laurels and expect to win without a challenge. 

Dynamic Apnea

In dynamic apnea, the trend of women’s performances for static and constant weight coming in at 25% less than their male counterparts continues. However, women like Annabel Briseno are infiltrating the top ten overall dynamic performances at major international competitions. Look for more of the same in Cyprus.

Except for a few athletes, dynamic apnea is the least practiced discipline in freediving. At international competitions, dynamic is usually limited to a demonstration event, with points not going toward a competitor’s point total. Some national AIDA chapters made dynamic mandatory and many European countries like France, Belgium, and Germany frequently hold indoor pool competitions with dynamic with and without fins. If any of these women decide to focus on their dynamic training, they could upset the favourites. 

Women’s Profiles

Annabel Briseno, USA

Considered by many to be the favourite in the absence of Mandy-Rae Cruickshank to win in Cyprus, Annabel has shown consistency in her recent competitions and, by all reports, her training is going very well. She can consistently make between over five minutes in static in high stress situations and, since she started using a monofin, her dynamic performances have been world class, with 132m in Kona only eighteen metres from the existing world record set by Nathalie Desreac in 1998. Annabel holds both AIDA USA pool records and also a ‘senior’ IAFD static record at 5’41. She has stated that she will be giving her best shot at surpassing the 150m dynamic record in competition. But with dynamic the day before constant weight, could Annabel hold back from risking a blackout in dynamic so that she can dive to her potential?

Lotta Ericson, Sweden

Lotta is nipping at the heels of Annabel in static apnea, her best mark in official competition a mere 3 seconds behind, but she could very well surpass her in Cyprus, and set a new world record if she is favoured with a ‘good’ day. In an email interview, Lotta reported that she had made 6’35 in training. After only one and half years competing, Lotta has shown consistency in static with a 5’34 in Kona and 5’36 at the Swedish Freediving Championships. She also holds the Swedish record in dynamic apnea at 107m, even though she told us she never trains for it. We get the feeling that Lotta still has room for improvement—Mandy and the others should watch out!.

Natalia Molchanova, Russia

This Russian freediver almost slipped under our radar for this article. She entered the Russian national competition in Moscow in April, 2003 and won handily. Although she has no international competition experience that we know of, Natalia has the highest combined point total ever in a women’s pool competition.  Her 128.5 points at the 2003 Russian Nationals beats Mandy’s 120.0 points at the Kona World Cup—in her first competition! She made 5’39 in static, equalling Annabel’s best static, and 142m in dynamic, the closest anyone has come to the women’s world record of 150m in an AIDA competition.  Natalia has not registered a constant weight performance for AIDA yet, so that could hurt her chance to win the overall crown—of course, she could be training in secret!  Nevertheless, she will be one of the most exciting women to watch in the pool.

Joanna Massacand, Switzerland

Joanne has posted some excellent times in static and is likely to finish in the top five in dynamic. She hasn’t returned to the awesome form she displayed at the 2000 World Cup in Nice, France, where she pulled off 5’34. Three years later, at a competition in Zurich, Switzerland, Joanne made 5’04 in static, well shy of her Nice result. Her dynamic at Kona was a healthy 109m. If she can combine both results, she could challenge the top women.

Julia Petrik, Russia

Another Russian freediver, Julia showed up in Ibiza for the World Championships without a team, yet she made 5’02 in static, following a 5’07 performance in Nice, France, the year before.  In Kona, she came up short at 4’44. Her ability in dynamic is unknown, but if she trains with Natalia Molchanova, these Russian women could dominate the pool in Cyprus.

Monica Hubbard

This South African freediver is one minute away from challenging Annabel and Lotta. Monica holds her country’s national record in static apnea at 4’58. Her attempt to break five minutes resulted in 5’09 with a samba disqualification at the 2003 South African Nationals. Her dynamic is strong at 105m and in the absence of the current SA record holder, Sheila Du Toit (113m), Monica has a chance to set new national records in both categories.

The French Women: Sophie Passalacqua and Brigitte Banegas

The French freediving system, centered in Nice, prides itself on approaching each team competition with conservative performances. Yet, this seems to have caused the women’s static and dynamic apnea to stagnate. French women rarely break five minutes in static ‘clean’ in international competition and few have exceeded 100m in dynamic in an official competition. To compete for top spot, Sophie Passalacqua and Brigitte Banegas might want to consider changing their training and strategy, especially considering the individual format of the Sony Freediver Open Classic—settling for under 5’00 is underachieving for someone like Sophie, who can dive to over 60m in constant weight. Furthermore, both Brigitte and Sophie have had problems with disqualifications. Brigitte was disqualified in Ibiza 2001 and in Kona—that time for being touched before the judging period of one minute was over. Sophie was also disqualified in Ibiza in static apnea. Look for both divers to banish their pool demons in Cyprus; however, it could be a bumpy ride if their uneven track record gets to them.

Karla Mendez, Venezuela

Karla Mendez of Venezuela could surprise everyone, especially if she has improved since setting Venezuelan national records in both static and dynamic in 2001. If she has improved, she will sweep past the French women and challenge for a top placing.

Author’s Predictions

Static

  • Eric – Lotta Ericson
  • Peter – Annabel Briseno

Dynamic

  • Eric – Natalia Molchanova
  • Peter – Natalia Molchanova

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