Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeFreediving#VB2016 - The Japanese Women Are Unstoppable

#VB2016 – The Japanese Women Are Unstoppable

Day five of Vertical Blue 2016 was spectacular. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better in the Bahamas (after a relatively new freediver from Japan set an enormous world record, just the day before) we were given the icing on the cake in the form of Tomoka Fukuda. A fan favorite, Tomoka has been steadily climbing up the ranks and diving down even deeper each year. Unwavering in the quest for her goal, (to be the Japanese National Record holder in the freediving discipline of constant weight), Tomoka knew to do so would mean succeeding the indomitable Misuzu Okamoto, a long time Japanese champion freediver and inspiration to many up and coming freedivers. Today was the half-way mark in the #VB2016 competition and it was Tomoka’s day. Besieged by two surface protocol violations earlier in the comp, Tomoka was now more determined than ever to come up clean and with a national title in hand. And that is exactly what she did in three minutes and :04 seconds time — completing a beautiful, white card dive to an astounding 94 meters Tomoka Fukuda is now not only the Japanese National Record holder but also the 3rd deepest woman in the whole world.

Tomoka on her way to a hard fought national record
Tomoka on her way to a long-sought national record of 94m CWT (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

“I lost my mouth-fill but the dive was feeling so good I went anyway!” a very happy Tomoka revealed. “I want to thank everyone for believing in me and supporting my dreams.”

Immediately following Tomoka in the line-up was Hanako Hirose, who has been nothing short of flawless in all of her previous dives. Today Hanako demonstrated so much prowess and vigor upon surfacing from her 92m CWT dive that anyone who was watching knew instantly she would be continuing to even greater depths.

Hanako soars to a depth of 92m CWT
Hanako soars to a depth of 92m CWT

While not Japanese, two other women also nabbed new national records today. Lena Jovanovic Balta of Serbia and Kate Middleton of New Zealand. “I almost didn’t come to this competition at all,” quipped Lena “My dive felt so amazingly good and I’m happy to be back. I’ve finally overcome my brain-squeeze!” Lena made a record setting dive to 61 meters in free immersion.

I have the tag and my brain-squeeze is gone! (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
I have the tag and my brain-squeeze is gone! (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

Kate Middleton did not want to even get out of bed today, but providence prevailed for the yoga instructor from Bali as she moved her own record down to an increasing depth of 85m constant-weight.

“This dive was a personal best! I never do personal bests in competition” she somewhat giddily shared, “Then I said to myself ‘f*$% it!’ and I’m glad I did because everything felt great on my dive today. The dive line represents so much more than a connection to depth & surface. It connects us all to each other and this experience, human to human.”

And last but not least, while definitely not a woman however, equally unstoppable, was Stig Pryds of Denmark. The Danish freediver (of Red Bull fame) actually has a serious condition in his knees (psoriatic arthritis) which makes it very difficult to perform in the disciplines that require extended leg strength. But as mentioned Stig is in fact unstoppable. So despite a minor black out from an attempt at 100m CWT two days prior, the great Dane persevered today to join the 100 meter-man club.

Determination, Endurance, Perseverance (photo by Daan Verhoeven)
Determination, Endurance, Perseverance (photo by Daan Verhoeven)

“I actually couldn’t see the plate,” said Stig “and now my legs are exhausted but I am thrilled to have successfully made my dive.”

This milestone achievement is on account of Stig’s determination, endurance and perseverance (not to mention the love of a good woman, his fiance, who flew to be with him on the island). Stay tuned for more big dives tomorrow as the #VB2016 athletes are truly raising the bar with another eight national record announcements in the bag.
Top times Day 6

Francesca Koe
Francesca Koe
An active ocean advocate, VP of U.S. Freediving, a multi-agency dive instructor, PFI Safety Supervisor and AIDA judge, Francesca also serves as the Editor-At-Large here at You can usually find Francesca diving in the kelp, hanging out at the Farallones with sharky friends, or trying to improve upon her own PB's.


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