Alexey Molchanov: Uncovering the Man Behind the Golden Wetsuit

By Kristina Zvaritch

Alexey Molchanov, the co-founder of Molchanovs, has been making deep dives in international media. He was recently featured in international publications such as GQ and Men’s Health, and was interviewed by Sharyn Alfonsi of 60 Minutes. They covered topics such as Alexey’s deepest dive to 131m (430ft) in Constant Weight (CWT) at Vertical Blue 2021, his performance diving to 130m (427ft) at the 2019 AIDA Depth World Championship, fascinating details about Alexey’s past and upbringing, training tidbits, a background of the Molchanovs Education System, and the opinions of other athletes on Alexey. Read snippets from each interview and article below.

Vertical Blue 2021

If you missed watching Vertical Blue 2021, you can catch up on the daily reports of the competition covered by our sports columnist, Asja Kleschevnikova, here. It was on July 17, 2021 that Alexey made the deepest dive in the world using just a prototype of the PRO Monofin 4 Carbon to propel himself to an incredible 131m/430ft and back to the surface in a heart-stopping 4 minutes and 33 seconds. GQ’s writer Daniel Riley pens a description of Alexey’s dive and brings it to life with quotes such as “His focus deepens. He relaxes to the point of seeming asleep. He takes deep, drowsy breaths, like a summer breeze filling a sail.” His descriptions of freediving are incredibly romantic and insightful. 60 Minutes also features a beautiful montage with clips from Vertical Blue, Alexey’s Guinness World Record under-ice dive across a 180m (591ft) in the Ameryevsky Dolomite Quarry, Alexey diving with whales, and interviews with Alexey himself, Arnaud Jerald, and Camila Jaber.

Photo by Daan Verhoeven

2019 AIDA Depth World Championship

Men’s Health highlights Alexey’s performance at the 2019 AIDA Depth World Championship to 130m (427ft), describing his dive in great detail while weaving Alexey’s backstory throughout the retelling. Writer Sami Emory gives background on freediving as a sport, Alexey’s mother Natalia Molchanova, Alexey’s Guinness World Record longest dive under ice, and the Molchanovs Education System. Emory also covers some freediving science in her article, the history behind freediving pioneers, and revelations that occurred from studies on these pioneers, artfully tying in the past with the present.

Backstory of Alexey

Emory of Men’s Health introduces Alexey’s backstory with a beautiful quote. “Alexey’s parents loved the water before they loved each other,” she writes. We learn from her article in Men’s Health that Alexey was featured in local newspapers for his 500m backstroke before the age of 5, and how he was a champion freestyle and butterfly swimmer later on. He also attended the Raduga Swimming Sports School of Olympic Reserve, a school created for future Russian Olympians. Sharyn Alfonsi of 60 Minutes covers Alexey’s future in freediving with the question, You don't think you've reached your limit to free dive as deeply as you could?” Alexey's answer was a thrilling, “No, no. I don't think that. I know with all the skills I have, with all the mind-control I have, I can go deeper and so because I can, then I will.”

Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Training for competition

Sharyn Alfonsi of 60 Minutes uncovers that Alexey “gets ‘dive ready’ on land. He does daily stretches and deep breathing exercises - something he calls ‘lung gymnastics’ - to build diaphragm, rib and back mobility.” Alexey has now put these lung gymnastics into a Base Training + program called Foundational Breathwork, which is available to both freedivers and non-freedivers. Daniel Riley of GQ discovers that Alexey has a specific thought process for competition. “With a big event,” Alexey says, “instead of focusing on the importance of an event, I switch to focusing on how much I enjoy deep diving, and how much I enjoy the process. I'm doing this because I like it, and I know how to do this really well. I'm diving with this reason in mind. And I'm doing this because I want to…” Riley also goes into Natalia Molchanova’s technique of “attention deconcentration," which is "a form of advanced meditation she described as having evolved from techniques used by ancient warriors, she could reset her mind and feel more prepared to take on the world". Attention deconcentration as a technique is taught in the Molchanovs Lap/Wave 3 course in detail.

Early days of the Molchanovs Education System

Men’s Health writer Sami Emory gives a background on the Molchanovs Education System in its early days under Natalia. In her article, we learn that Natalia Molchanova ran a freediving program at a local Russian university where Alexey was pursuing a software engineering degree, and they ended up certifying more than 100 freediving instructors. With a desire to translate Natalia’s trainings into English, Alexey established Molchanovs Freediving Education as we now know it in 2018 with Adam Stern and Chris Kim. Emory writes that more than 500 new instructors have been certified under this very system.

Photo by Daan Verhoeven

Other athletes on Alexey

These publications make it clear that Alexey is loved and respected by his fellow athletes. On 60 Minutes, Camila Jaber, a Mexican national record holder, speaks of Alexey with the interviewer. “He has a very like, sportsman mindset. So, this confidence in himself, in his training, on what he believes on growing the sport. He's also encouraging and pushing other athletes to become better,” said Jaber. When Alfonsi asks Arnaud Jerald, a multiple world record holder freediver from France, what it's like to compete against Alexey, he replied, “For me it's like a dream. All the time he's laughing or smiling. All the time he enjoys life. And it's beautiful.” But perhaps the best quote to describe Alexey comes from Emory of Men’s Health, who quotes Adam Stern saying, “I had been told that he was just a machine of a person, and as a diver he is. But as a person, he’s a big cuddly teddy bear.”

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