Over the past six articles, we’ve looked at the complexities of competing at the international level. We hope that giving you some history on each major competitor has helped bring those inert results tables to life.
There are a few more stories to tell about divers who will be going to Cyprus, perhaps not favoured to win, but their progress will be watched by those who have been in the sport a little longer than the rest.
The Greek Divers: We wish Manolis Giankos from Greece would compete! He is an excellent diver, world class person, and a modest diver. He reached –89m in training at the same time as Herbert Nitsch did in Ibiza 2001. His influence on the Greek freediving community is unknown. Does he still dive? Does he encourage others and share his training regimen with other freedivers? Will there be a Greek diver in Cyprus who will suddenly appear to take over where he left off? Greece has centuries of freediving history. The famous story of Giorgos Haggi Statti, a fisherman who found an embarrassed Italian Admiral’s lost anchor at over –70m without any of the modern freediving equipment, still resonates with freedivers today. In 1999, Danai Varveri, a 20-year-old student dove to –35m without a mask or fins to raise awareness about sea bed contamination. She has not entered any AIDA competitions, but she represents the depth of talent that exists in her country. The Greeks could be a force in competitive freediving and a welcome presence. We hope for their return in Cyprus.
Team Cyprus: The host country of the Sony Freediver Open Classic is sending ten athletes to compete against the rest of the world. This is their first international competition. They could emerge as a force in freediving if awareness of the sport in Cyprus helps them develop of national organization and regular ocean training.
George Bryan-Orr: A Team Canada member at the 2000 World Cup in Nice, France, George is a solid competitor in constant ballast, with a personal best that year of -60m with bi-fins. He has moved to Guernsey, where the water is soupy and very shallow. It will be interesting to see how much training he has been able to do and how he will perform in Cyprus. We wish him all the best.
Team DeeperBlue! Emma Farrell, and Sam Kirby will be competing on separate teams but they will all be representing DeeperBlue.net in Cyprus with reports about the competition and their own progress.
Hot Off The Press!
The Italians are Coming! With only two weeks left before the big competition, three Italian freedivers have asked for permission to participate in the Sony Freediver Open Classic. Howard Jones has granted them entry. One of the athletes is Davide Carrera, FIPSAS record holder in free immersion at –91m. The identity of the other two freedivers is unknown at the time this article was posted—even though Howard Jones joked that Umberto Pelizzari was coming out of retirement—but likely they will compete for the top spots as well.
The sudden appearance of Davide Carrera will cause the likes of Stepanek, Coste and Nitsch to start looking over their shoulders come time for the constant weight competition. Although Davide Carrera set chose FIPSAS to judge his record—many claimed her had a samba—he is nevertheless one of very few freedivers to reach –91m at all. He can equalize and he has the air for a deep dive.
If you keep tabs on European national and regional competitions you would know that Carrera entered the CIPA regional competition held in Nice, France on May 3-4, 2003. He placed fourth with a dive of –60m and a 4’58 static. With numbers like that, it makes you wonder if he is waiting for Cyprus to really make a ‘splash.’ At the 2001 World Championships in Ibiza, on the winning team with Pelizarri, Carrera reached –70m with ease and 5’25 in static. The Italians are excellent competitors and no doubt Carrera will live up to expectations once more.
2003 Sony Freediver Open Classic Program
(go tofor ‘Program C’ updates)
- May 24th-Sign-in / Announce Dynamic performances
- May 25th-Constant Ballast “training”
- May 26th-Dynamic Competition
- May 27-29th-Constant Weight Competition
- May 30th-Static Competition
This schedule will present a challenge for the contenders for top spot. Those who choose to go all out in dynamic might face the unpleasant reality of waking up the next morning for their deep constant weight dive with dead, lactic-acid soaked muscles. Not a great starting point for a -90m deep dive! Dynamic apnea is an optional event, but we imagine that most of the top divers will participate in all three events. The static showdown will also be tense, because each competitor, if they indulge in a little math, will be able to figure out precisely how much time they need to beat their closest rival in order to win overall. That extra stress factor alone, could make for a nail-biting finish and perhaps a unexpected samba or blackout!
Our picks for the overall title
Remember that in Cyprus, dynamic apnea is a completely separate event. The overall title will be decided only by static & constant weight.
Peter: I pick Martin Stepanek to win overall, despite the fact that he has so far failed to live up to expectations at a major international competition. I choose him, simply on the basis that if things go right for him, he could blow everyone away in each discipline. As far as absolute performances go, he has no weaknesses with over -90m in constant weight in his most recent training, an 8’06 world record, and 200m dynamic in training. Martin just needs to focus on himself and ignore the media attention. Even if he pulls up short in each discipline, he has what it takes to get the highest overall score. I predict –91m constant weight, 7’15 in static, and 180m in dynamic for the title. Although, Stephane Mifsud can probably beat Martin in the pool, Mifsud can’t compete in constant weight. Herbert Nitsch will be Martin’s biggest threat; Carlos Coste needs to improve his performance in the pool to challenge him at all.
I like Annabel’s chances of winning overall. She is gunning for Tanya’s world record in constant weight. Matthew Briseno, Annabel’s husband, reported that she has surpassed –70m on her last day of training in Kona. He didn’t say by how much. Clearly, Annabel’s access to deep water and her regular training schedule has made the difference. She may lay off a bit on static, settling for a performance in the mid-five minute range, and I expect her to go all out in dynamic. My prediction for Annabel: -72m constant weight, 5:45 in static and 154m dynamic. Lotta will probably win static apnea, but doesn’t have the experience to win in constant or dynamic. Natalia Molchanova of Russia could beat Annabel in dynamic but without a decent constant weight performance, she will not be a threat to her overall title.
Eric: The unofficial record for the most combined points in static/constant is held by Stephane Mifsud, with 144 points, which he got by performing a -66m dive and a 7’48 static. The difficulty in predicting the winner of a combined competition is not predicting the performances, but predicting the disqualifications. In the absence of disqualifications, I think Herbert will surpass Martin in static, by a large enough margin to barely overcome a deficit in constant weight. However, there is also a real chance Herbert could be disqualified in static, just like in Ibiza. Most of the athletes have stated that they will be going for their limit in each category, and not worrying about the combined total. In that sense, the most likely athlete to score high in the combined total is the athlete who cannot see any record within their reach. The four big guns (Stepanek, Nitsch, Coste, Mifsud) all have records within their reach, and thus risk disqualification. Should they each suffer DQ’s, Guillaume Nery of France, despite a weak static apnea, could emerge as a dark horse winner with a dive in the high –80m range and a static under 6 minutes. Guillaume, if he were to dive 86m and do a 5’50 static, would net 144.3 points, a hair more than Mifsud’s 144 point record. However, if Nitsch & Stepanek avoid DQ, they will probably net over 160 points. Remember that in Ibiza, if Herbert had pulled up a few seconds earlier in static (and avoided the DQ), he would have scored around 166 points, way over the current record of 144.
In the women’s combined, Annabel will probably pull through if she can escape a DQ. Should she suffer a DQ in either static or constant, Lotta Ericson would probably end up second, given her conservative attitude in constant weight, and her excellent static results. Sophie Passalacqua will no doubt be ready to pounce if Lotta or Annabel fall short.
The State of the Sport
The sport of freediving, in most of the world, exists primarily for and because of competitors. Outside of France and Italy, sponsorship is scarce and mainstream media attention is almost non-existent. National organizations are upheld by competitors and volunteers. Many seek publicity and sponsorship. Unfortunately, the preferred approach of most mainstream reporters is to highlight the ‘aren’t these people crazy’ angle. There is little interest in the personalities and competition itself—thus, the focus of our ‘Freedive Show’ series for DeeperBlue.net. How often has a freediver spent time giving a journalist an accurate and in-depth look at the sport and the discipline of freediving, only to find that, in the end, his is portrayed as ‘death-defying freak of nature?’ It is frustrating to people trying to have freediving recognized as a mainstream sport. Some people even hope for freediving in the Olympics! We wonder if the sport might be better off with a freediver-centric approach and not the big business culture embraced by so many other sports.
The success of the Cyprus ‘Open’ competition might very well be the best thing that can happen to freediving. The biggest problem with AIDA World Championships model of competitions, for example—as shown by the 2001 Ibiza event, which, in our opinion, was thrown together by an inexperienced organizing committee and only salvaged by the patience and tolerance of the competitors involved—is that AIDA does not have the resources to form an experienced competition organizing committee to assure high quality for each World Cup and World Championship event. AIDA is a volunteer organization without much money. The 2003 World Championships, set for Turkey, never even got past the planning stage; AIDA member nations all over the world that had scheduled National selections for the World Championships were left with nowhere to send their teams.
Luckily, Freediver Magazine’s group stepped in to fill the void. Howard Jones’ team has the experience—much like the group of organizers in Nice, France, site of the successful 2000 World Cup—to pull off the event. If indeed, the Sony Freediver Open Classic is successful in offering competitors a fair, safe and exciting venue to test themselves in this amazing sport, other host countries and organizations, such as FREE, IAFD, FIPSAS, or the many national organizations, may do the same, using the ‘open’ competition model, which may eventually supersede the ‘World Championship’ model. After all, with Nitsch, Coste, Stepanek, Ericson, Briseno, Nery competing, isn’t the Sony Freediver Open Classic the de facto ‘world championship’ in 2003 anyway?
Bring on the competition!
All that’s left is to wait and see what happens. DeeperBlue.net will be on site offering the best coverage in the freediving community, and indeed, anywhere!
It’s time to lube your suit and slide it on, jam your feet into your monofin, spit in your mask, make Darth Vader sounds through your snorkel, and sit by the computer, waiting for breaking news. Will Annabel break Tanya’s constant weight record? Can Karl Pernett overcome his lung injury to take the static crown away from the favourites? Will the Freediver Magazine crew pull off a reasonably smooth competition?
Our hope is that DeeperBlue.net’s freediving coverage will assure that the history of freediving as a sport will be preserved and not limited to incomplete and 404 Not Found websites. Stability is the foundation of any healthy sport and everyone likes to celebrate the accomplishments of athletes committed to friendly and intense competition.
Good luck to all the athletes!
From both of us at the Freedive Show—stay tuned and stay wet.
In addition to the coverage here, why not visit the
Why not visit Apnea Magazine for Italian, or SportalSub.net for Spanish translations of our coverage?