World Champion Free Diver Disappears During Practice Plunge in Spain

Natalia Molchanova has disappeared at sea (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Russian Natalia Molchanova widely regarded as the world’s greatest freediver disappeared at sea and is believed to have died.

She was diving off the coast of Ibiza, two miles west of La Savina, at a site named Poniente de es Freus. The 53-year-old, who set 41 world records and claimed 23 world championship titles, was diving for fun, rather than in a competition.

Her son Alexey said that she descended on Sunday August 2nd, in clear skies and calm seas, but did not resurface. Two days of intense searching have failed to find her.

Natalia Molchanova has disappeared at sea (Photo: AFP/Getty)
Natalia Molchanova has disappeared at sea (Photo: AFP/Getty)
“She was a free-diving superstar, and we all thought nothing could harm her,” said Kimmo Lahtinen, the president of the global federation for free diving, known as AIDA. “Nothing could happen to her, but, you know, we are playing with the ocean, and when you play with the ocean, you know who is the strongest one.”

As soon as her fellow divers realised she was missing, they conducted a brief search and then called for help via radio. A flotilla of private boats and the local Coast Guard deployed, backed up by a helicopter. The same search was carried out on Monday, and on Tuesday the authorities brought in an underwater robot capable of searching a radius of nearly 500 metres.

Mr Molchanov said that his mother was not expected to be found alive.

Natalia Molchanova (Photo: Telegraph UK)
Natalia Molchanova (Photo: Telegraph UK)

Based at Moscow’s Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism, Ms Molchanova – previously a competitive swimmer – had written a series of books and manuals about freediving.

Her record dive without the use of fins was 71 metres (233 feet), which she set in May in Dahab, Egypt. She also holds the world record for time spent underwater – nine minutes and two seconds.

Several theories were given as to what could have happened to Ms Molchanova – ranging from being swept away by strong underwater currents, to blacking out, hitting her head or being attacked by a shark.

“The world has lost its greatest free diver,” said Will Trubridge, a 15-time world-record holder in the sport. “I don’t think anybody would dispute that.”






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