Cyprus freediving stories: The first international competition of Natalia Molchanova

Cyprus freediving stories: The first international competition of Natalia Molchanova

Asya Kleshchevnikova
Sports Columnist and Head of Customer Service & International Sales

Kristina Zvaritch

In four weeks, on September 20, 2021, in Limassol, Cyprus, the 27th AIDA World Championship will commence.

Thanks to your support and to the attention you gave to our reporting of the Belgrade Championship and Vertical Blue 2021, we are planning to report on every day of the AIDA World Championship. Additionally, for an even deeper immersion into the subject of freediving competitions, every week before the Championship, we will tell you a story that took place in Cyprus when the history of freediving had just begun.

This week’s story is devoted to Natalia Molchanova. In the 2003 Sony Freediver Open Classic, an international pool and depth freediving competition held in Cyprus, Natalia took part in her first ever international freediving competition. At that time, she had only one year of experience in freediving, and she competed only in the pool. Miraculously, the unknown athlete from Russia managed to replicate in competition the DYN world record set during an individual world record attempt by Nathalie Desreac of France in 1998. Natalia Molchanova dived a distance of 150m/492ft in the pool and improved her own personal best record of 142m/466ft, which she had set several months earlier in the Moscow Open Cup. We must admit that this was already an impressive start.

Natalia’s first depth world record was set in 2005 at the 1st AIDA Individual Constant Weight World Freediving Championship in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, where she dived to 86m/282ft and broke the previous world record belonging to Mandy-Rae Cruickshank of Canada with an additional 8m/26ft. Then, after setting three more world records in CWT, Natalia finally became the first woman in history to bypass 100m/328ft. In 2009, in Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt, Natalia dived to 101m/331ft, and that record remained untouched for eight long years. Only in 2017 did Alessia Zecchini of Italy manage to set a new world record with a performance that was 1m/3ft deeper.

All in all, throughout the 12 years of her freediving career, Natalia managed to set a total of 41 AIDA world records in all freediving disciplines. Some of Natalia's records were set to such high levels that they remained untouched for a long time after she tragically passed away in 2015. For example, Natalia's last AIDA world record in DYN was set in 2013 to 234m/768ft. A full five years passed until this record was broken by Magdalena Solich-Talanda in 2018 after she reached 243m/797ft.

Even six years later, in 2021, Natalia's world record in STA still remains unbeaten. In the 2013 AIDA World Pool Championship, Natalia Molchanova managed to hold her breath for incredible 9 minutes and 2 seconds. Since then, there has been no other woman in competition who has managed to hold her breath for longer.

For her outstanding achievements in sports and tremendous contribution to the development of freediving, Natalia Molchanova was named by the freediving community as the “queen of freediving.” In 2015, AIDA International established the Natalia Molchanova Memorial Award, which is presented to the most worthy male and female athlete. The awardees are usually chosen by AIDA World Championship judges, however, most of the time the award is given to the overall winners of the competition.

The award was given for the first time in 2015 at the AIDA World Depth Championship in Limassol, Cyprus. The athletes who received the award were Sayuri Kinoshita of Japan and Goran Čolak of Croatia.

In 2018, AIDA International decided to include a monetary prize to the recipients of this honorable award in the sum of €1,500/~US$1,867. At the last AIDA World Depth Championship, which took place in Nice, France in 2019, the award was won by two French athletes: Marianna Gillespie and Abdelatif Alouach. We look forward to finding out who will be honored with the award this year!

The main aim of our stories and reports on freediving competitions is to recognize and commit to memory inspiring moments in freediving history. Our sport is still quite young and it can be difficult finding sufficient information about particular events and competitions. That is why, here and now, we are writing freediving history together; the history of the depths humans have descended to. For those who would like to be a part of the history and to memorialize this important historical freediving location, we are preparing Cyprus special edition equipment, which will include monofins, bifins, t-shirts, and hoodies with unique and subtle design devoted to Cyprus. The equipment will be available for order only on the days of the AIDA Depth World Championship, which are the 20-30 of September. Stay tuned and don't miss your chance to get a limited edition piece of equipment.

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