Freedivers set seven horizontal swim world records in June competitions under the auspices of the two governing bodies AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea) and CMAS (World Underwater Federation) – with one male and one female competitor scoring in both events.
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Two records were set at the 28th AIDA World Championship at the Park Arena OZK pool in Burgas, Bulgaria. On day two of the four-day event, Polish diver Julia Kozerska set a record in the Dynamic Apnea No Fins discipline with a 209m swim.
She had already briefly held the title two months before with a 202m swim before fellow-Pole Magdalena Solich-Talanda had raised the bar to 207m at the same national event.
On the final day of the Championship (24 June), French freediver Guillaume Bourdila broke by one metre the previous Dynamic Apnea With Monofin record, which had stood for six years. His 301m swim meant completing a turn after his sixth length of the 50m pool.
Two hundred divers from 30 countries entered what CMAS claimed to be “the largest world championship to be held in freediving so far”. It got underway on 12 June when, in the Dynamic Apnea No Fins category, Kozerska set a new women’s record of 210m (1m more than her new AIDA record).
On day two, records were set in Dynamic Apnea With Bi-fins in both the men’s and women’s categories. Bourdila was there to set a new mark of 274.7m for men, while even in second place Pole Mateusz Malina’s 274m was almost 10m more than the previous CMAS record. Croatian freediver Mirela Kardasevic’s women’s record-breaking distance was 250m.
On the final day of the competition two more world records were broken. In Dynamic Apnea With Fins, Kardasevic broke the women’s record by 9m with a 275m swim. And for the men, Malina raised the world bar by 5m to 321m.
AIDA upsets Taiwanese freedivers
Meanwhile AIDA has been accused of “political self-censorship” for altering the name of the Taiwanese team to appease the Chinese government.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the governing body had tried to make two freedivers at its Caribbean Cup competition in Roatan compete under China’s preferred name for the island, Chinese Taipei.
Male diver Huang Ming-chun placed second in Constant Weight Without Fins and set a national record depth of 63m, while female diver Lien Lin-lan set new national records in Free Immersion and Constant Weight.
However, on 25 May Huang posted on social media that he and Lien had found their nationality altered from “Taiwan” to “Chinese Taipei” on the pre-dive schedule. AIDA restored the original billing only after the pair had threatened to withdraw from the competition.
China treats Taiwan, an island 100 miles off its south-east coast, as a breakaway province. The two split when Mao Zedong’s communists took control in Beijing after WW2, while Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Kuomintang took refuge on the island. Only 13 small nations recognise Taiwan as a sovereign country, although 59 others maintain unofficial diplomatic relations, including the UK.
The Taiwanese ministry praised Huang and Lien for their “tireless efforts in defending the dignity of the nation” and urged AIDA not to bow to “China’s undue political influence” but to respect the opinions expressed by “the overwhelming majority” of its members.
“These actions caused offence to the dignity of our country and the rights of our athletes,” it stated. “Beijing’s ceaseless campaign to denigrate Taiwanese athletes in international sports events serves only to elicit the distaste of Taiwanese, causes further damage to China’s image and reveals the totalitarian nature of the Chinese Communist Party government.”
Last year Taiwan accused AIDA of removing its flag from a world championship broadcast live from Cyprus. AIDA, which routinely lists Taiwanese freedivers first as being from Chinese Taipei, then Taiwan, did not respond to Divernet’s request for comment.
Records with one leg
Egyptian amputee Omar Hegazy has set two Guinness World Records freediving titles specifically for athletes with one leg – for the longest distance swum under water on one breath, both with and without a fin.
Six years ago Hegazy was about to embark on a career in banking, but his life changed when he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. After a difficult recovery, he said that he was inspired by the achievements of Faisal Al Mosawi, a Kuwaiti wheelchair-user who set a Guinness World Record for the fastest 10km scuba dive in 2018.
Hegazy also counts swimming across the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt to Jordan along with long-distance cycling and mountain climbs among his achievements since the accident. “Nothing beats the journey,” he said after his breath-hold swims had been verified, adding that he was “still hungry for more”.