Vertical Blue 2016 Competition Highlights
What a year it’s been. We’re well accustomed now to seeing exceptional results at Vertical Blue: the relaxed atmosphere, near perfect conditions at Dean’s Blue hole and the unique competition format which allows athletes multiple attempts at each discipline all contribute to the event’s status as one of the best environments for competitive freediving in the world. With a total of 34 national records, though, and an incredible 3 world records, including the first ever for a Japanese freediver, this year’s competition has surely been one of the most successful in the history of the sport, never mind the event itself.
Overall winner for the women was relative newcomer Sofia Gomez of Columbia. She pulled out some frankly incredible performances in FIM (82m) and CWT (93m) and a solid 58m CNF to close out her lead. Clearly she’s benefitted from some after-hours coaching from a certain tousle haired kiwi castaway…
Second was Sayuri Kinoshita of Japan. Already quite the celebrity in the land of the rising sun, she’ll presumably be catapulted to the status of national hero after pushing the CNF world record out to 72m, the first Japanese woman to hold a freediving world record, and the first woman to surpass the late Natalia Molchanova since her tragic disappearance late last year. Massive.
Coming in third was Kiwi Kate Middleton, darling of our recent foray into YouTube Spirit-Journalism, who seems to have quietly hula-hooped her way to international stardom over the last 3 years. She extended her national records in FIM and CWT to 75m and an impressive 85m respectively and, most exciting of all, took much less than three quarters of an hour to complete her CNF dive to 42m, a real improvement there for her.
Also worth a mention was Hanako Hirose of Japan who won the CWT competition with a massive 99m - watch that space closely, she’ll be gunning for the world record in the next year 12 months if we’re not very much mistaken.
No surprises as far as the men’s winner is concerned: bereft of competition from World Champion Alexey Molchanov, kiwi William Trubridge found himself free to pursue his goal for this year of extending the FIM world record past 121m. He played it very safe in CWT and CNF with dives to 112m and 90m respectively - a walk in the park for him - and gave himself a run up, clocking dives of 116m and 119m in FIM before nailing the magic 122m on day 7. Not content with this, though, he managed to put the icing on the cake with 124m on the final day of competition.
Incredible stuff from the Kiwi all-rounder really: It’s fair to say that Trubridge’s performance has dipped since his historic 101m CNF world record back in 2010. Earlier this year he pulled out of his scheduled attempt at this and the CNF world records citing illness, and these latest records represent an exciting return to form for him. Food for thought too, perhaps, for Spaniard and FIM specialist Miguel Lozano who’s been quietly working his way into sub 120 territory in Indonesia this year.
Second was people’s favourite Stig Pryds of Denmark. He bagged solid dives at 72m CWT, 100m CWT and 100m FIM to come in just ahead of VB insider Dean Chaouche (try saying that one 10 times fast) of Great Britain. Dean has had a stellar time in just his second year of international competition, finally bagging the elusive CNF national record at 74m and joining the illustrious 100m CWT club for the first time too. He also deserves some sort of prize for fastest CWT dive ever, getting to 100m and back in a shade over 2 minutes. Err... what?!
A massively successful competition overall, then, with, in addition to the unprecedented results, just 10 blackouts from nearly 200 dives over 9 days. For me, one of the most poignant moments was this heartfelt salute to former head of safety captured by photographer Daan Verhoeven during the kiwi’s dive to 62m FIM on day 5.
A fitting tribute to one of the deepest divers in the world and testament to the huge progress that the competition has made in the areas of organisation and safety over the last 3 years. Don't it bring a tear to your eye.
Massive congratulations from Freedive-Earth to all the athletes, organisers, safety team, media and judges. See you all again next year!