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The freediving world championships will take place next week in Limassol. ALIX NORMAN learns why Cyprus was chosen to host, who will set new records and how to watch each dive live online

In July, Jennifer Wendland set a world record for freediving off Limassol. And in less than a week, the German prodigy will be back in Cyprus, joining 130 athletes from 39 different countries – all of whom will try to outdo themselves in the world’s biggest freediving competition.

Held every two years in the sea (and in between, in the pool), the AIDA World Championships are big business in the freediving community; a chance for intrepid athletes to prove their skills in depth and in open water. Hats off to Cyprus – and host organizer Savvas Savva of the local Free2Dive freediving school – for securing the 2021 event!

“The last depth championships took place in Nice, in 2019,” says Sasa Damnjanovic, member of the organizing team and representative of the AIDA board of directors. “The 2020 swimming championships were a bit missed thanks to the corona, but the competition is back this year for its 27e iteration, and we are so proud to welcome it to Limassol, a city that has always been synonymous with the sea.

“Cyprus,” she adds, “has a long history of major international freediving competitions. In fact, the World Championships have already been held here in 2015, an event that saw many new world records. It was a great experience for the athletes and really advanced the sport of freediving on the island, so we’ve been waiting ever since for the chance to do it all again and are incredibly happy to have been chosen as our 2021 destination. “

Against Roatan in Honduras, Limassol was the ultimate winner because of its many advantages, says Sasa. “Our diving conditions are ideal: a long swimming season in calm and warm waters; good visibility; and no strong currents. There is easy access to the depths required by the sport – it only takes 7 minutes by boat to depths of 150 meters – and we have excellent access to medical facilities here. We also benefit from an excellent location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia; benefit from the past experience of host Savvas Savva’s event organizer, who has represented Cyprus at 15 world championships as an athlete or judge; and have a very good snorkeling infrastructure. And we must not forget, “she adds,” the Cypriot hospitality and the support we receive from our sponsors, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, the Municipality of Limassol and EDT offshore “.

Although the decision to host in Cyprus came quite late – “the global pandemic meant we weren’t even sure until the end of May if there would be a world championship!” Sasa reveals that the committee managed to pull everything together in time for the September 20 deadline. It’s an effort that has included weeks of backbreaking work: setting up dive sites; organization of hotels and transport for athletes; set up committees of judges and medical teams; search for safety divers, platform coordinators and line handlers; and get all the necessary equipment for each dive.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy,” says Sasa. “But it will be absolutely worth it for the competitors. And also for those who want to watch, ”she adds. “Because this year we will be broadcasting every dive live on the AIDA YouTube channel through the use of underwater drone technology. So every second of every dive in every category will be available for viewing! “

feature3 3 celebrating the photo record c constantinou uw photography
Celebrate the record. Photo: C Constantinou photography

For ten days, athletes will compete in four depth disciplines: constant weight (in which the diver attempts to descend to a targeted depth using only fins or monfins and their arms); Constant No Fins (in which any propulsion aids other than the arms or legs are strictly prohibited); Constant weight bifins (in which only bifins and arms can be used); and Free Immersion (in which the diver attempts to reach a target depth by pulling on the guide rope).

“We are expecting teams from Russia, France, Korea, Taiwan, China, Germany and Greece, to name a few,” says Sasa. “Among the athletes we will find Russian record holder Alexey Molchanov; French hope and title contender Abdelatif Alouach; and returning world record holder Jennifer Wendland of Germany, who set the world record in the discipline of constant weight freediving for women with bifins this summer. We will also see some serious competitors from Cyprus, ”she adds. “Pavlos Kourtellas, our national record holder, will participate, as will Vasilis Bissas and Alexandros Polemitis who all train locally.”

In the weeks leading up to the competition, Cypriot athletes were joined in their training by many foreign competitors, who flew early to adapt to local conditions. Or simply to escape Covid restrictions in their own country …

“In open water, there are hundreds of elements that can influence every dive,” says Sasa. “From water temperature to thermocline to salinity… And every athlete needs to spend time before competition to adapt their diving strategy, buoyancy and routine to local conditions. Additionally, many freedivers are still not allowed to train at home due to Covid restrictions, so they arrived in Cyprus early to take advantage of training opportunities.

“In fact, we have been welcoming competitors since the beginning of August,” explains Sasa. “The Taiwan team and representatives from Hungary and Morocco were among the first to arrive and, meeting each morning at the starting point, garnered more than a few curious looks from the beach attendants! And as more and more athletes come to Cyprus, we are witnessing a wonderful exchange of cultures, experiences and ideas.

“Already, as they train every day and familiarize themselves with our seas, many have achieved personal bests! So we can’t wait to see the new world, international and national records that will be set at the AIDA World Championships, right here in Cyprus in 2021!

The Aida World Championships will take place from September 20 to 30. To view the dives live online as they unfold, visit the ‘Apnea AIDA‘ Youtube channel


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