There is no denying that the talent down under is as vast and diverse as the country itself, so when the annual underwater sporting expo ODEX offers the very pool that saw more than 50 records broken at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games, we knew we would see some stellar performances from freedivers across Australia.
The event, only the second World Series Freediving Elite Pool Competition, attracted 14 contenders.
Poolside was abuzz with stalls advertising ‘everything diving’, glamorous mermaids undulated past the folk that had come to try out scuba, fin swimmers vied for the title of Australian Champion and then there were those underwater rugby men strutting up and down the pool in their very skimpy uniforms.
Amongst all this, freedivers could be spotted in corners and in the stands chilling out before their own performances in front of a growing crowd of spectators.
The first two static performances from local Sydney Freedivers Ron Quin and veteran Ant Judge stopped the clock at 5 minutes 32 seconds and 6 minutes 22 seconds, respectively, Ant always entertaining giving his solid surface protocol along with comedic comments to take out the Men’s Static division.
We waited in anticipation to see what Amber Bourke could produce, given her recent return from the 7th Individual AIDA Pool World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. Surfacing, after going past her personal best by 30 seconds, her surface protocol (SP), under WSF rules, didn’t qualify due to a Momentary Loss of Consciousness (MLC).
The next 6 competitors all received white cards for their dives including first timers Charmaine Tham (3 mins 29 seconds) and Daron Joseph (4 mins .29 seconds). Jack Hatfield pulled off an easy 4 mins 59 seconds. Nathan Watts punched out 5 min 7 seconds. Next up, Nicole Keating played her performance right to surface at 4 mins 5 seconds and take out first place in the Women’s Static division.
Patrick Falls scored a new PB after releasing a heap of air and surfaced at 5 minutes 20 seconds with a solid SP.
Peter Hou and Tim Horan were both red carded — Peter for double dipping airways and Tim for cessation of breathing hindering his SP.
Vladamir Zubko came into the competition zone an unknown, his breathe-up technique included hyperventilation along with packing which saw him disqualified within moments of submerging his head. He was granted another start on an unofficial basis which was in line with the WSF spirit of competition and managed a 3 minutes 30 second dive.
The last divers of the day were the only non-Australian participants; Yoram Zekri from France produced a white card for his 5 minutes 22 second performance and Owen Kelly from Ireland with 4 minutes 43 seconds.
Day 2 was interesting and some confusion about the Classic Dynamic and Dynamic rules regarding not being able to use arm strokes outside the turning 5 metre zone were raised. This rule exists to deter those competing in classic dynamic from using their arms to complete lengths. Through the confusion Nathan Watts was the only competitor affected due to his unique style of arms at his side while monofinning using an arm pull around 15 metres after turning. He still managed to pull off an incredible 180 metro swim, having adapted his technique on the spot which would have claimed the number 1 spot had he not forgotten to remove his nose clip within the allocated 20 second SP allowance.
Out of the 13 competitors, 12 swam past the 100 metre mark, notably Amber Bourke’s 200m effort. Her previous best at the Worlds was 5th in DYN with 196m and 3rd in DNF with 164m which was a world record until she was surpassed by Katarina Turcinovic (Croatia) with 175m and Natalia Molchanova (Russia) with 182m.
Here are Amber’s comments:
“This is the second year in a row I’ve competed at this competition and it was good to see a few familiar faces as well as plenty of new faces in the lineup. The competition has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is a good competition for beginners and experienced freedivers alike. On Sunday, I attempted a 200m dynamic but messed up the end a bit and ended up with a red card. All was not lost though as my fellow Brisbane Freediver Nicole Keating ended up taking home the gold.“
Amber was referring to her coming to the surface at the 189 metre mark and continuing to swim along the surface to the wall marking 200 metres. It was extremely disappointing having to hand out a red card with the crowd cheering and clapping for having witnessed her amazing swim. Other noteworthy swims were from the winners Nicole Keating with a PB of 151 metres, Ant Judge won the Mens division with a great 174 metres, Owen Kelly of Ireland swam an Irish National Record of 111 metres and Jack Rocket Hatfield completed his 150 metres in 1 minute 48 seconds.
Nicole Keating had this to say after winning both static and dynamic:
“I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend at ODEX and competing in the World Series Freediving (WSF) competition. The organizers did an amazing job. I love competing because I get to meet some of the best freedivers in the world and learn so much from them. My love for freediving as a sport is the personal and mental challenge of striving to be the best that I can be. My highlight of the weekend at WSF was watching National Record Holder Amber Bourke complete a 200m swim. It was inspirational, and has motivated me to work and train harder.“
Well said Nicole – you are the spirit of the WSF competition!