Dancing under Water

With whom did I dance under the water? Why I admire the journalists? For how many meters it takes to flatten? And why five minutes is considered to be a record?

I started preparing for the next free diving competition three months before it. I already had my basic training – interval-running trainings, swimming, cycling. I only had to work on my swimming under the water technique, and improve carbon dioxide management.


When a person holds his breath, his blood cells begin to absorb the oxygen and emit carbon dioxide instead. That’s why the CO2 concentration in the body increases when you hold your breath. Try to hold your breath now; after a while, you’ll feel the need to breathe, and your diaphragm will start contracting. This occurs because of an excitation of the nervous cells in the respiratory center: when the level of carbon dioxide in the blood reaches its threshold, it causes an irritation of receptors that react to changes in the chemical composition of blood. In other words, we want to breathe not because there is little oxygen, but because there is a lot of CO2.

So, there are special exercises for extending this threshold of discomfort, like holding your breath during exhalation. They are terribly uncomfortable, because you have to endure this state for a long period of time, but they provide good results. In principle, like in any sports activity – the worse, the better.

Then I practiced pranayama and breath-holding during walking. I used to walk around New York and scare passers-by with my loud breathings and bulging eyes.

In short, one day I decided to check what I’m worth and went to Niagara, got into the swimming pool and held my breath. After 5 minutes under water I felt well, at 5:30 I started feeling the pressure, at 6:00 I ended the experiment without reaching a state of strong discomfort. According to my estimations, I could have tolerated this state for an additional 15-20 seconds. When I checked my heart rate, I understood why I managed to stay under water for so long – my heart rate fell to 39! beats per minute…

But… Two weeks before the competition, something weird started to happen with my health – increased heart rate, slight fever and weakness. I could not understand what was happening to me, my morning heart rate increased by 10 beats (20%) – and this was a lot. Following a fruit and vegetable diet and ending to run I was trying to calm down my heart, but here is Saturday, tomorrow is the X-day, and the only thing left for me was to hope for a miracle…


The first thing I did after waking up on the day of the competition, was to immediately put my hand on my neck. My wall quartz clock is ticking the rhythm – each separate second. I compare the clock rhythm to my heart rate and understand my heart is going much faster than the arrow, which means my heart rate is way above 60 beats per a minute and that’s bad, because in the mornings it is usually 53-55 beats. This means that I am still sick, and that my body is battling some unknown shit.

Well, it means I’ll have to go way beyond myself today and fight seriously. And it won’t be easy. With such gloomy thoughts I packed myself and headed for the competition.

The pool is already crowded, a lot of familiar faces, smiles, hand shaking, everybody’s looking forward to a miracle – I’m smiling back and promise to do my best.

I’m thinking to myself that every expectation only increases my heart rate. One thing makes me happy though: the presence of freedivers increased by half compared to last year, and this means we’re doing everything right and freediving is growing in Moldova.

By the way, everything went well in terms of organization this year, the equipment functioned well, my team was on top… Thank you, guys!

I registered, put on the heart rate monitor, hydro suit, and went into the swimming pool to relax. I check my heart rate and cry – 90 beats while lying on the couch. I start breathing right – inhale for 10 seconds, exhale for 20 seconds. 10 minutes later my heart rate falls to 80, but even this is a lot.

They announce athletes to get prepared – opening speeches, brief instructions and anthem.

I am heading to warm up – hold my breath for 2 minutes, then for 3 minutes, then for 4 minutes. At minute 4 begin the contractions (diaphragm contractions). From previous experience, I know I can resist 2 more minutes after the beginning of the discomfort stage, and I understand that today I’m ready for 6 minutes only. I can forget about 6:20 this time… The heart rate is down to 70. Satisfyingly.


And they call me in. My heart rate jumps up, I can’t relax. I start preparing for the statics. I have 3 minutes for preparation. Everyone is expecting a miracle from me, tens of people are watching my attempts to calm down, some TV channels pointed their cameras and projectors at me. I check my heart rate, and feel goosebumps running along my spine – 120 beats per minute!

I desperately try to calm down, but manage to wind myself up even more. And the last breath and I lay on the water…

It’s silent under water… I can only hear my heart beats. And I don’t like what I’m hearing – sounds like a woodpecker. After the competition, when I checked my heart rate, I was shocked – 142!!! Even when I run my heart rate is lower. But here, only laying on the water…

So, my heart is racing, oxygen is burning, and nothing good can be expected from this. I try to fall asleep as I normally do. Deconcentrate, blur my attention all over the pool, and start to calm down. Then I hear 3:30. Not bad, contractions are feeble and have only started; this means I’m on schedule.

But what I’ve heard later, made me curse.

– “Dima, 3 minutes”. It means it wasn’t 3:30 before, but 2:30. I just didn’t hear.

Only three minutes, and contractions are in full mode. I realize I can forget about a record, now I should at least strive to repeat my last year result.

I try again to fall asleep, hear my heart slowing down. Contractions are frequent and uncomfortable. 4 minutes. I start suffering. My chest is burning, I try to disconnect from reality. Smile. Smiling always helps me when I hold my breath – it calms me down and gives me a sense of peacefulness. And suddenly I start seeing an infinite space and within it a girl with long hair, dancing. She is spinning, and I understand she’s dancing under the water.

– “5 minutes”. It was the last thing I remember. The pain became unbearable. The girl gets closer, but I can’t see her face; I get closer and start circling with her. At one point she turns, and I recognize Vika, my beloved… I smile at her, we circle… Everything around becomes light, bright shine is falling on me from everywhere, I feel good…

– “Protocol! Dima!” I see people applauding in front of me, cameras, microphones, my instructor, the judge; they all shout something at me, and I don’t understand what do they want. I slowly come back to senses, understand what I have to do, take off my glasses and show them “I’m OK!” I later found out that if I hesitated a bit more, they would have disqualified me. I was a few seconds away from the loss of consciousness under the water.

I can’t think straight yet, people start sticking their microphones in my nose, ask me questions… our great journalists. I try to answer, but my speech is slurred, my brain is not working at full capacity yet, therefore I’m talking non-sense. I love journalists.

By the way, my time was 5:50. With a heart rate like mine – this is fantastic. A national record! I understand I can show 6:15-6:30 if my health conditions are good and if I learn to relax. And this is excellent news.


In between competitions, the best Moldovan divers showed a master class on how to put on the equipment under water without wearing a mask, and underwater races!


Next competition – diving without fins. Who swims more meters under water – is a cool fellow. Everything is very simple. Heart rate still jumping.

My personal record is 75 meters. Actually, this is my favorite discipline, though the weakest.

The feeling of flying in the water is incredible – like flying into space. No weight, noise; only the water and you.

I dive and glide. I spent a lot of time training my dynamics; therefore I master fairly well the technique. Two pools fly by with pleasure, at 60 meters I start feeling the discomfort.

75 meters, turn around, the pressure is considerable. I think that now I’ll push myself and emerge to the surface; and I push. I feel the air flowing out – this is a bad sign. Hypoxia in dynamics catches up much faster than in statics. In 10 seconds my state of health gets twice as bad. While I was doubting, to emerge or not, I saw the edge of the pool right in front of me and decided to try to reach it. And I can’t recall what followed.

I opened my eyes at the finish – people bother me again, I complete the scoresheet. I was on the verge again. 102 meters – a national record! But why I decided to turn back and swim 2 more meters is a mystery for me. Vadim Zhukov, my competitor and friend, swam 100 meters. Sometimes, even a few meters can change everything.


I am exhausted, my head aches, my heart is working on its limits, and I understand that blacking out once again might be dangerous – I could easily get disqualified. Therefore, I decide to take the final distance comfortably.

I put on my handsome C4s and slide under the water. Before this competition, I spent a few workouts trying to figure out my swimming style, which was most optimal for oxygen burning. And it turned out that I swim longer when I keep my hands on my hips. This is not typical for freediving, but I find it easier to relax and calm down in this position.

So I push and start gliding. I get a rush after the first 2 pools, on the third I start feeling the discomfort, and I find it difficult to complete the forth. I understand I could turn around and swim half a pool more, but decide not to risk and emerge.

Score. OK! 100 meters with fins. The second result. Vadim was unbeatable on this one – 112 meters. Congratulations!

The competition came to the end. This time the results and records have officially been registered at the Ministry of Sports.

Thanks to my Sporter.md team for the work done and for the event. To Serghey Legheida, the President of the Diving Federation, co-organizer and friend for his support and advice. To my coach Sashka – mulțumesc for messing around with me, and thanks to Niagara club for their help during organization.

And the greatest thank you to my girl with floating hair, to my dear Vika, for being there in the most difficult moments for me.

Mentioned projects:
Sporter Moldova freediving
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