Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Diving Loss

Natalia Molchanova has disappeared. 

No, she didn't take a 'moonlight flit,' or didn't make it back home from the drugstore. Molchanova, 53, a Russian, holds 40 world records for free dives -- deep dives made while you're simply holding your breath. (It's part of the sports designation known as competitive apnea -- activities done on a single breath.)
    Last Sunday off the coast, near Ibiza, Spain, Molchanova and some friends were in the water. Nothing too exhausting or technical -- just a few dives for fun. Wearing a purple wetsuit she designed herself, Molchanova went over the side, took a few long exhales...

and vanished. 

Days later, no one has found her -- no body, no nothing. No one knows for sure what happened to this amazing woman, who held a world record for holding her breath (9 minutes, 2 seconds), as well as swimming a pool's length without taking a breath (about 778 feet -- about 378 meters, on one monofin).

Molchanova was the president of the Russian Freediving Association.

“She was a free-diving superstar, and we all thought nothing could harm her,” said Kimmo Lahtinen, the president of the global federation for free diving, known as AIDA. “Nothing could happen to her, but, you know, we are playing with the ocean, and when you play with the ocean, you know who is the strongest one.”

Sadly, this is not the only loss in recent years. In November 2013, A diver from Brooklyn, Nicholas Mevoli, dove at Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas, in an attempt to break the American record for free diving. 'Vertical Blue' was monitored by officials, and should have taken place without incident. Mevoli dove hundreds of feet, but had some noticeable problems -- instead of cancelling his effort, however, he only went deeper. Eventually he surfaced, attempted to give a thumbs-up (the accepted way to finish off and certify the dive), and collapsed. He died on the boat.
     Although a relative newcomer to the sport, 32-year-old Mevoli had already broken several records. His last dive: 3 minutes, 38 seconds.

     Mevoli is the only American to break the 100-meter barrier...something Molchanova accomplished, as the only woman diver, in 2013. In his "other" life, he was a prop technician for Gossip Girl and Comedy Central's Chappelle Show.

The search for Molchanova has been called off, and she's presumed dead. “It seems she’ll stay in the sea,” her son Alexey, also a free diving record-holder, said.
      “I think she would like that.”

To learn more about this incredible sport, go here. 

A free diver ascending -- note the monofin

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