Don’t hold your breath ... freediver’s world record attempt seemingly scuppered

Serbian freediver trying to break underwater breath-holding record of 11 minutes and 35 seconds mistimed his watch and then found the water too cold but the Guinness adjudicator still had a surprise up his sleeve.
Branko Petrovic after his Guinness World Record attempt. Victor Besa for The National
Branko Petrovic after his Guinness World Record attempt. Victor Besa for The National

DUBAI // A mistake in synchronising timers and setting the right water temperature cost the crowds at the Xtreme Sports Expo 2014 on Friday the chance to witness a Guinness World Record.

Freediving champion Branko Petrovic had been on course to break the 2009 record for holding breath under water set by Stephane Mifsud, of France, at 11 minutes 35 seconds.

The Serbian diver had planned to set a record of 12 minutes but he mistimed his own watch and came out at precisely 11 minutes and 35 second, matching the record.

His second attempt at the event at JBR Walk was 10 minutes 50 seconds, thwarted this time by being in cold water for too long. “The water is too cold, I’m like an ice cream,” he said to the judges as he came out of the pool. Throughout his two attempts Petrovic received moral support and advice from the “Deepest Man on Earth”, Herbert Nitsch. The Austrian freediver has held world records in all of the eight freediving disciplines and currently holds the no-limit record for diving 253.2 metres.

During both attempts the tension was palpable. Dozens of people, from children to the elderly, gathered in silence to watch Petrovic attempt the incredible feat.

The crowd reacted with shocked disbelief when he missed a new record by a second, but he took responsibility for both mistakes.

“I tested the water earlier in the day and it was too hot, so I asked them to put some ice in the water. That was my mistake. I miscalculated that and then it was too cold,” said Petrovic, who had trained for six months before making the attempts.

He had practised in water at 28°C, and the pool yesterday was at 24°C, so he changed into a thicker wetsuit before his first attempt.

But on his first world record attempt Petrovic made a second mistake of the day. “I started my watch early,” the 28-year-old told the crowd. “I thought I had already beaten the record when I came up.”

Eager to please the crowd, he made a second attempt but found that he had been in the water too long.

“The second time I didn’t want to risk hypothermia or blacking out,” Petrovic said. “Sport safety must come first.”

Guinness World Records adjudicator Pravin Patel said: “To have a successful attempt you must beat the record by one second – matching it does not give you a world record.

“You must also be able to stand unassisted for 30 seconds after your attempt for it to be valid.”

Mr Patel said that the adjudicators must also monitor the athlete for one hour prior to their attempt to make sure it is a natural attempt and that nothing was given to assist in the dive.

Just when the crowd thought Petrovic had failed in his bid, Mr Patel announced that the freediver had already set a record.

“The new Guinness World Record for Static Apnea (holding your breath) is 11 minutes 54 seconds set by Branko Petrovic on October 7, under the supervision of the Guinness adjudicators.”

The record was set in Dubai, three days earlier.

“I want to thank the people of Dubai for this amazing opportunity. My freediving experience started here in 2012 in the Fazza Championships. For me, the only right way was to have my first attempt here,” said Petrovic.

Petrovic was awarded Dh120,000 by the Kemos Group, whose chief executive, Mohammed Al Khayat, is a passionate freediver.

Published: October 10, 2014 04:00 AM


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