Media Blackout at Depth World Championships | Freedive Earth

Media Blackout at Depth World Championships

Maybe I’m just jealous. For the athletes and support teams involved in the competition, it looks like the the 2015 world championships have found themselves a great location. Conditions have been perfect. Deep blue flat calm water with a comfortable surface temperature is every Freediver’s dream. I’ve been out of the water myself now for a little while and I have to admit that the pictures we’ve been getting from photographer Daan Verhoeven have given me a familiar tingle.

Trouble is, those photos are pretty much the only thing we’ve seen coming out of Limassol this week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sold on the idea of Media Frenzy - Fans of Freedive-Earth will know we’ve raised questions before about the role of corporate sponsorship and global publicity in the future of Freediving.

In recent years we’ve become quite inured to the well-oiled media machine at Vertical Blue, and the output of relentless promotional workhorse Stavros Kastrinakis whose Kalamata-based outfit has hosted 2 of the last 3 individual world champs. This year’s organisers Freediving Cyprus have struggled, it seems, to get information out on anything like the same scale, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. For me there’s something quite wholesome about the experience of putting together this article from a collection of photographs of the athletes’ results board posted by Aida stalwart Carla Hanson. It suggests that, despite the growing hype, Freediving is still a sport primarily for real fans. It’s not the kind of thing that’s plastered up on every giant billboard in town, and you won’t find it rammed down your throat on the TV as a vehicle for advertising gut-rot. Squinting at those photos with my nose up against the screen, trying to work out whether that’s Slovencikova (CZE) or Shtokhamer (ISR) in CWT 3rd place, it’s almost like I’m actually there. Almost.

Aida Freediving Depth World Championships 2015, (Unofficial) Full Results

All of that said, though, when a competition of the scale and significance of the World Depth Championships is going on on your doorstep, digitally speaking, when athletes of the calibre of Molchanov, Trubridge and Néry are going head-to-head for the first time in more than 2 years, it would be nice to hear something about it. By the looks of things it’s not been plain sailing for the athletes either.

Line Error Causes Heartbreak for Guillaume Néry

In his final pre-competition attempt, former world champion and multiple world record holder Guillaume Néry (FRA) announced 129m - a new world record - but, because of a host of measurement and equipment errors, the line was set to an eye-watering 139m, just 6m off the current VWT record. Whichever way you look at it, this is very, very bad. Forget public relations, of all the responsibilities involved in organising a competition, it’s hard to find anything much more fundamental than making sure the line is at the right depth, especially for very deep dives. No Freediver alive today would attempt a 139m CWT dive and expect to make it back to the surface.

Néry, who says he never uses a depth alarm, would have been unaware of this error, even, perhaps, after touching down (like a boss) at the bottom, and grabbing the tag. Having got there, though, his fate was already sealed. He blacked out 15m from the surface on the ascent, suffering a lung-squeeze which ruled him out for the rest of the competition. A massive blow for him but, as he acknowledged afterwards, a lucky escape.

We can only hope he’ll be back in action soon since he’s clearly diving well. It’s not easy organising, judging and officiating a competition and we should be careful before we hang anyone out to dry. That said, there are clearly some questions for the organisers to answer in the days and weeks to come.

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