Freediving world championship in a pool in Serbia

Why to be sleepy and inhibited is the key to success? What is better – 2 or 3 white cards? What is the temperature of the heels of the Yeti? How many records can be beaten in 3 days? And where are the best trainings for breath-hold in Moldova.

Freediving is underwater swimming with breath-holding. Let me explain: there is diving in length (swimming the maximum distance with and without fins), diving into the depth (everything is clear here) and diving on a breath hold (static apnea – a strange word, I agree).

So freediving is probably the most unusual type of sports – here the winners are not the strongest and most enduring, but the most sleepy and off-speed ????

I got interested in freediving two years ago. I decided first to try something new, but it turned out that it came to stay. Freediving is a sport that you fall in love with. Hence came the idea to tell the others about it. Maybe, someone like me will also start going in for this strange and new for Moldova type of sports. Therefore, in 2014, we as, have held the first Moldovan championship in freediving. And due to the fact that this sport is not very common for Moldova, I could easily win this national championship.

Then there was a lot of running, cycling, lots of swimming, then was the Ironman, and again Moldova Freediving Championship. And this time, I was barely able to take the top step of the podium (but I still managed to beat my personal best result, and the national, by the way, too). People learn about this wonderful sport, start training and the competition is growing. This is great, competition is always motivating! Everything’s wonderful. But…

At the time I was actively training for the Ironman (jogging, cycling, lots of swimming), and to improve the results, of course, I had to boost the metabolism. And I boosted it, I overcame the triathlon, and then it turned out (although the smart people warned me in advance), that after this it will be sooo hard to get back in freediving. And here’s why. For showing good results in freediving, you need to thoroughly slow down your metabolism: when the pulse slows down, the metabolism also slows down, and the body, being half asleep, is capable in staying underwater for a long time without any discomfort.

Besides, (in addition to a slower metabolism) you have to teach the body to spare the oxygen. This is a very simplistic explanation. In fact, the biochemical processes in hypoxia are much more complicated, but that’s the very essence of this. While the triathlon and running, on the contrary, require the most boosted metabolism, high ANSPs, IPC, lots of hungry muscles, and a lot of oxygen, which is not a deficit. And now it turns out that triathlon and freediving are not compatible, like boxing and chess (although here I am not so sure)

When my colleagues in freediving find out that I am an Ironman, they all have one question – how do I manage to reconcile the irreconcilable? Really hard. I try to properly allocate mesocycles throughout the year, to eat and to rest properly. But, going a little forward, I confess that now, after Belgrade, running is very hard for me. My body got used to peace and does not want to move and sweat. My cross-country indices fell back to a year ago, and I feel that it will be very difficult to accelerate my metabolism up to last year’s level.

Well, okay, it’s not about that. Then there was the operation in the nasal septum, because it was curved, interfered with breathing, and permanent snot was not helping to improve the results.

A month later, in Moscow, I failed statics and breaststroke, but dived well with the fists (129 meters). It was a good lesson that you should know your limit and not cross it, and this has become my main motto for the freediving competition.

Then there was Dahab, where I found out that my ears are still don’t let me go lower than 35 meters. Maybe, the postoperative swelling has not gone yet. I hope that I will dive deeper in fall in Egypt.

Then I have also decided to go to the World Championship in freediving and represent Moldova. Why not? If we start doing something, then let’s go to the limit! Then there was a strict diet, daily breath holding, severe hypoxic trainings in the pool. But, as it later turned out, all these were not in vain.

This year, the World Championship in freediving was hosted by Serbia and its capital – Belgrade.

Grey town and there was nothing really special to talk about, except that the girls are very beautiful – slender, curvy, provocative. Tesla Museum will not leave anyone indifferent – I highly recommend it. Aside from that there is nothing special …

In the first day, we went to register, and I got a fashionable T-shirt worth 800 euro. 122 sportsmen from 27 countries came to the championship.

Russian, Japanese and French delegations have really impressed me …

While as from Moldova, unfortunately, I was only one, not counting Vikulya. Nevertheless, it was very nice to see the Moldovan flag during the opening ceremony! Incidentally, this is the debut of Moldova at the World Championship in freediving! Next year, I will try to take a couple of athletes with me.

The next day was the test workout day. You could dive, get used to the pool. I went there, and as it turned out, for a good reason. First, the water was much colder (22 degrees) than the one I was used to. And secondly, I banged my head against the rim, so that the sparks rained from my eyes. The fact is that long diving without fins is usually carried out in a 50-meter swimming pool, but since the length should be 25 meters, we sailed across. And, accordingly, the marks on the bottom were made by the organizers with means at hand – black lead stripes. And for marking the fast approach to the side, the organizers put up signs on the bottom by the meter to the side.

For me (and, perhaps, not just for me), it became a problem. Since for the best relaxation, freedivers do not look in front of them, but on the floor, so the mark “meter before” is simply not enough for navigating and to turning around in time. In short, I missed the mark, indicating that there was a meter before the rim and BANG! If this had happened during the competition – it would be impossible to even think about any intelligible result.

Oh, and thirdly, during the practice-test dives, the athletes pick up their weights around the neck to be neutrally buoyant (floating in the water). I knew it, so I brought a trendy necklace with the logo of the country, pulled it over, dived, and suddenly realized that I pop up like a balloon. During the trainings in Chisinau, everything was ok, but here such an embarrassment … Where else can I find some lead? The problem was not trivial, because normal people usually do not carry lead with them. While as the free divers might ????

 In general, thanks my mastery in Japanese language and disconcerting naivety, I wormed my way into the confidence of the Japanese group of freedivers, and the smiling and fragile creature with a beautiful name Yuki donated to me a pound of lead. And in return she received a modest souvenir ????  

有難う 御座います, Yuki!

Happy that everything is going well, I went to bed. The last thought was – “The main thing is to get the three white cards” …


The first day of competition – Dynamic No Fins. Or who manages to swim longer underwater.

Swimming under water without fins is my favorite discipline. Such a great feeling of weightlessness and slipping into the water is simply hard to express. Therefore, over the past few months I gave this type particularly much time. While it may be in part due t the fact that brass goes technically out my bad – right leg twitches, weak stroke, bad flow fluid dynamics.

The world championship was held in a beautiful pool – on the riverbank in the open sky, transparent as a baby tear, and cold as the Yeti heels. The water temperature is still 22 degrees, it is warmer in the sun though, but you should really try to warm up.

Having stretched up on land, I gathered myself, pulled on the diving suit and my fancy collar and sat on the edge to meditate. The plan is five twenty-five meter swimming pools, or 125 meters.

During the trainings, I’ve already done this much, so I decided not to go for more, so as not to risk and blackout.

I take a full breath in, as they say in the freediving slang “pack up”, and dive. The first 2 swimming pools give a pleasure… In the third – the first urge to breathe. Fourth – I am fighting and begin to doubt the success.

Fifth… I do not remember the fifth one. I jump up, glasses, clip, sign, I’m Ok. White card. Bingo! Hugs, kisses, 125 meters – a record of Moldova. 44th place out of 85 men. Not bad. So far, everything is going according to the plan.


The second day – the same dynamics, but this time with fins. I have not been training the flips – not my discipline. It reminds me of the bicycle in triathlon – a kind of technological layer, which prevents blending with the environment.

Pool on the second day is the same cool, but I’ll be under water for about two minutes, so I do not have time to freeze. I decide not to workout for avoiding cooling myself ahead of time. I sit on the ledge and start to breathe.

Start! Dive, hands behind the head, here we go. The plan is 150 meters. No more, no less. It’s a 50 meter pool, which is not very usual (you won’t find such pools in Moldova for trainings), so I decide to swim 3 and come up on the edge. And, as usually, I swim fast, the dynamics is squandered, so it is impossible to swim for a long time.

The first swimming pool is really comfortable, I turn (I have been training for this for a long time, but it still comes out crooked, the monofin is big and hits the pool wall, when you make the turn). The second turn was worse, I bumped the fin, and already feel discomfort. After turning I suddenly feel that my feet turned into two steel and stiff sticks. Swimming gets very hard. This never happened before.

Later, I found out that many athletes experienced the same thing because of the cool water and breaststroke yesterday. Somehow I hobble to the ledge and jump out, pink, at 150 meters. Minutes, I’m Ok. White card – great!! Personal and national record. 62nd place out of 92.


Third day. Statics – who will stay longer underwater.

In this kind of discipline I have already shown in Moldova a certain result: 5 min 50 sec. I wanted to show even better results during the Championship in Belgrade.

Morning. Of course, the pulse is increased (as usually, on the day of the competition). I omit breakfast to not distract the body for food processing, while holding my breath. The body will have nothing to do, it will be bored, yawning, and may even fall asleep from idleness.

Before the start, we have tested a new device for lung volume measuring, and, of course, we broke it ????

Never make lung packing when standing on the shore and holding an expensive device in your hands. Because you might loose your consciousness and the device will fall and break together with you ????

 But thank God, Sasha fell not so hard, and I have already fixed the device.

In the pool, nothing has changed – the water temperature is +21, and I understand that my 3-millimeter diving suit will not save me from the cold. Warm-up begins, and after 20 minutes in the pool I start to shiver. 10 minutes before the start, I crawl onto the ledge and try to get warm under the sun. Somehow it does not work, and I flow back into the pool. Vadim transports me to the start area. I am trying to get my mind away from the cold and to calm down.

My goal: minimum – 6:00 maximum – 6:30 (the time that I achieved a week ago in my home swimming pool). I understand that with such jitters I will have to be content with the minimum plan. But the main task is to get the white card. Therefore, I will not risk it – I certainly should stay away from the blackout.

5,4,3,2,1, official top!

The first 3 minutes passed in silence, as usually, in stillness and views of the pictures on the beach under the hot sun. Heart suspends its course, the brain goes to sleep, but the growing coolness does not allow dissolving in water completely. Vadim reports – 3:30, contraction come, it’s bad … too early … It means that I will not be able to stay longer than 6 minutes. I’ll have to struggle.

5 minutes – I’m starting to struggle.

5:30 – I am already seriously shaking, 80 contractions behind.

5:45 – 90 contractions, I’m starting to get off the counting – this is a bad sign, I am enduring it.

5:58, 5:59, 6:00! I hear – Dima, come out! I understand that I can still sit for 10 seconds, but I decide not to risk it and come out.

The protocol is clear, consciousness is ok, I understand that I played it safe, but this is much better than 6:30 and a red card. 6:02 – white card, national record. 31st out of 81. The “minimum” plan is achieved! A little disappointing, but overall satisfactory.

Results of the World Championship: 3 days, 3 white cards, and 3 records … and 3 reasons to relax. ???? And one stormy celebration on the Belgrade disco in the style of the 90t’s ????


In general, by world standards, I showed quite modest results and records, but I hope that in a couple of years, athletes from Moldova will shine in the international freediving!

I want to thank my coaches, Branko Petrovich for his advice and assistance in the preparation, Vadim Shamitko for the safety, Vikulya for the support, Dan for the photos, Yuka for the sinker and the organizers for a well-conducted event (pool does not count). Oh, and, of course, my mom and dad. And children. And friends. And enemies. And the body for withstanding the load, and metabolism that surrendered under the onslaught, and the circumstances that made ​​it possible to participate in the debut World Championship in freediving for Moldova. Special thanks to the elevators and maxi-taxis for high-quality trainings in breath-holding.


When I was going to publish the post, I found out about the terrible tragedy –  on the 2nd of August at the coast of Spain during a workout Natalia Molchanov was missing – the most titled freediver in the world, the president of the Russian Freediving Federation, the founder of freediving school in Russia, one of the strongest in the world. Natalia has more than 40 world records, more than 10 influential works on the theory of freediving, and a countless number of students (including me) and trainers. A Legendary Woman.

Lots of words can be written about the irreparable loss, but I better tell you briefly about how I spent last night in Belgrade.

Immediately after the awarding ceremony at the World Championship, we went out together with Yaroslavl freedivers for snack at the nearby cafe, because due to the imminent departure we had no time to hang out with the whole big company. Suddenly, we were joined by Natalia Molchanov.

Rather than go with her close friends to a restaurant for celebrating the closing of the championship and her medals, she chose to join us, her students.

This evening was the most memorable for me in Belgrade, because, as it turned out, the most titled freediver in the world is an attentive, amazingly simple, light person, with which you can chatter, have a good laugh, and throw pizza. That evening, Natalya read to us a draft of her report about this championship:

In short, I was calm

And rowed so quietly with fins,

That under water very long

Was swimming

And came out with a clear head,

Accepting the reality.

Forming the shades of the world

In response …

Freediving – is a philosophy of life. The door, letting you into the depths of consciousness, your own forces and understanding of who you really are …

Natasha lived by this philosophy, she was immersing us into this philosophy, and left this world by this philosophy…

Mentioned projects:
Sporter Moldova freediving
The story of two Half Ironmen

The story of two Half Ironmen

Who is Serge the Cheerful and why does he have sad friends, when can mom hit an Ironman, why does Andrei feel like a lonely lonely loner, and is it possible to glue two Half Ironmen into one complete?

How we crossed the Moldovan Sea

How we crossed the Moldovan Sea

On the 19th of July, In Moldova, for the third time in a row, took place the swimming competition in open water Ghidighici SeaMile. More than 400 participants swam across Ghidighici. Many swimmers from other countries attended this competition, such as Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Italy. So, Sea Mile swim in open water has now acquired an international status.