On the weekend of the 9th and 10th March, freedivers from clubs across the UK and indeed across the waters flocked to the beautiful Liverpool Aquatic Centre for the Great Northern International Pool Championships. It was like a gathering of the freediving clans and a great opportunity for both new and old faces to meet. Eleven countries in total were represented which was absolutely fantastic: Great Britain, Ireland, France, Denmark, Poland, Canada, Hungary, Holland, Germany, Greece and Latvia.
The Great Northern, now in it’s fourth year, was superbly organised by Steve Millard of Apneists UK. Each year ‘the event’ (as it is also known), has gone from strength to strength, growing year on year. This was my first time competing ‘up north’ and having heard so many good things, I was not left disappointed. The atmosphere created by Steve, the judges David Tranfield and Pim Vermeulen, Mandy and Kate, the safety team, volunteers and all the staff at the Aquatic Centre was phenomenal and ensured that the athletes were instantly put at ease and free to concentrate on what they needed to do.
The weekend was split into two separate competitions. Day one, Saturday, was kick started by the Dynamic No Fin (DNF) competitors. DNF is becoming more and more popular with athletes and this was reflected in the numbers taking part, totalling 35 (25 men and 10 women). And what an exciting day it was! The 50 meter pool was reduced in size to 25 meters to accommodate the no fins divers and with its glass ceiling, looked very blue and inviting indeed. There were some big dives as you would expect from some of the more experienced athletes and some equally big personal achievements from some of the newer initiates into the sport – all were acknowledged which was both generous and brilliant to see. Mateusz Malina from Poland completed an incredible 180 meter dive, making it look blissfully easy and securing first place for the men and Yulia Maryevich from Latvia, did a very elegant and solid 100 meters coming first out of the women and a new national record, one of three National records managed by the wonderful Latvian team.
Day two, Sunday, saw the number of athletes swell to 47 and the buzz around the centre increased too. The first part of the day was dedicated to Static (STA) and we all moved over to the 20 meter pool to register, warm-up and generally prepare for our Official Top start time. Athletes and their coaches congregated around the pool in preparation – towels and yoga mats dotted the periphery of the pool for people to stretch, do yoga, lie or sit down, meditate, concentrate on breathing, or listen to music to get into their own competitive zone. There were some big breath holds by some of the men: Mateusz Malina (6:47), Erdhart Torsten (6:19) and British Adam Drzazga (5:58). There were also some strong statics performed by the women, notably the UK’s Liv Philip and Yulia Maryevich.
The second part of day two was finished off with the Dynamic (DYN) with fins element of the competition. As you would expect there were some great performances by Malina and Maryevich who swam a brilliant 201 and 151 meters respectively, gaining the top spot out of the men and women and for Yulia a National Record for her country. We were also very proud to see some great and strong performances by our very own home-grown British talent Liv Philip and Tim Money. Liv took 2nd Place on the podium and Tim Money ranked 1st out of the British Men overall. Liv and Tim regularly represent the UK on the British Freediving Team and are well known and admired athletes. Also it was great to meet some of the Dutch divers, a great video here of Eric by Daan Verhoeven
A lot of work goes into making a competition successful and the sponsors of the Great Northern are deserving of a massive thank you for their generosity: Without a pool we would not have been able to compete: Lifestyle Fitness centres provided a wonderful pool and facilities for us all to enjoy. Sensational prizes were provided by Orca and Fins4U for the winners of the competition. And official Sponsors of the competition were Saka, Blue Orb, Freediving yoga lessons from OM diver and TriBeCa who hosted us in their trendy bar and fed us delicious pizza and safety from Gone swimming. The British Freediving Association has supported and promoted the Great Northern and is well deserving of a mention as are Lifestyles leisure for their excellently run leisure centre. And on a personal note and on behalf of the athletes, I’d like to say huge thank you to Steve Millard and his fantastic team for a truly sensational weekend – well done!