The History, page 3
In 1999 “AIDA” became AIDA International to keep up with the continued development. On September 21st Roland Specker handed over the AIDA presidency to Swiss Sébastien Nagel. Being AIDA’s responsible for records prior to taking the reins, the Lausannian Nagel became notorious for his logistic skills. In Nagels presidency, AIDA and freediving saw an explosion in numbers of registered athletes and competitions, regulations development, and increased media coverage of freediving. Nagel also foresaw the forming of a large number of new national AIDA bodies, uniting these in the AIDA Assembly introduced in his time in office. The new president was surrounded by a group of international freedivers on an executive board counting Claude Chapuis, Frédéric Buyle (Belgium), Dieter Baumann (Austria), Karoline Meyer (Brazil) and Kirk Krack (Canada).
The list of international contemporary freedivers grew with names such as Italians Gaspare Battaglia, Davide Carrera, and most notably Gianluca Genoni; also Yoram Zekri (Belgium), Alejandro Ravelo (Cuba), Benjamin Franz (Germany), Jean-Michel Pradon, Michel Oliva and Loïc Leferme (France), Pierre Frolla (Monaco), Topi Lintukangas (Finland), David Lee (Great Britain) and Eric Fattah (Canada), as well as French women Nathalie Desréac and Audrey Mestre, Turkish Yasemin Dalkiliç, and the American wave Meghan Heaney-Grier, Annabel Edwards, Jessica Wilson, and Tanya Streeter. By 2003, Streeter mirrored Angela Bandini’s 1989 feat by breaking the inter gender No-Limits world record, reaching 160 meters depth.(Brazil)
The By 1999 freedivers kept pushing the limits of breath hold diving. Umberto Pelizzari became the first to reach 150 meters in No-Limits, and the first to reach 80 meters in Constant Weight. By now, Pelizzari had earned the respect of freedivers worldwide, considering him the best all round freediver of all time.
The big annual competition had been the Red Sea Dive Off ’99 in El-Gouna, Egypt, and in 2000 AIDA experimented with a new format; a World Cup. The three competitions across Europe had limited success, still being between national teams, and some suggested that the world championship format was ripe for reform.
In 2001, with the support of Club Med, Olivier Herrera, a young Spaniard, organized the 3rd AIDA Team World Championship in Ibiza. The Italian men lead by Umberto Pelizzari came first, France second, and Sweden third. For the women, in order, the Canadians with Mandy-Rae Cruickshank took gold, the Americans with Tanya Streeter silver, and the Italians with Silvia Da Bone bronze. Herbert Nitsch (Austria), later to be not only one of the most dominant figures of freediving, but likely the most complete freediver ever, reached 86 meters in Constant Weight, a new world record. Shortly after this championship, Pelizzari announced his athletic retirement following one last world record attempt, where he completed a Variable Weight dive to 131 meters depth.
In 2002, AIDA USA representative Glennon Gingo organized the major international competition Pacific Cup - Jacques Mayol Memorial International Competition, in Kona, Hawaii, originally intended to be part of the World Cup. World record holders were finally regularly participating in competitions; athletes like Martin Stepanek (Czech Republic), Carlos Coste (Venezuela), Guillaume Néry and Stéphane Mifsud (France), Stig Aavall Severinsen (Denmark), Bill Strömberg (Sweden) and many others lit the scene. Bob Croft’s presence at this competition made the event something to remember for all participants. Now 27 teams competed, and on the men’s podium at the end were found the Swedish team including a female athlete, Lotta Ericson, taking the silver medal just behind the Venezuelan team with Carlos Coste. AIDA had finally succeeded at uniting the best competitors in the world.
In October 2002, the worst possible incident struck freediving. Audrey Mestre, wife of Francisco “Pipin” Rodriguez and by now one of all time’s best female freedivers, lost her life during an official world record attempt off the coast of the Dominican Republic. She had set out to break the No-Limits world record across both genders, and while trying to complete a 171 meters deep dive, her diving sled malfunctioned and she failed to reach the surface in time. The dive had been organized by IAFD, and the onsite security measures were heavily criticized in an emotional debate over the Internet following the accident. Most public flag went to Rodriguez, who consequently quit the freediving scene, his credibility exhausted. Few months prior to this tragedy, German Benjamin Franz had suffered a severe case of decompression sickness while training No-Limits in the Red Sea, and had since been confined to a wheel chair. The now highly active freediving community instigated a complete re-evaluation of the deep diving safety measures, and as one consequence, AIDA introduced the mandatory use of a safety lanyard and back up lifting systems in deep diving disciplines.
The Show Must Go On
2003 was somewhat a year of coincidental hiatus in AIDA in terms of a big international event, but did see the introduction of Constant Weight without Fins. This discipline had originally been developed and promoted by the FREE organization before being inaugurated by AIDA. CMAS was not entirely done with freediving either and this year the old agency launched a new initiative: The Jump Blue. The format was to freedive as long as possible in open sea along a rectangular course at a depth of 15 meters. This competition form was criticized by some, and started off with a limited success.
The 4th AIDA Team World Championship took place in Vancouver, Canada in 2004. Germany was the one to glitter this time as they went home with the golden cup, being the first non-Mediterranean country to do so. Second and third came United Kingdom and Canada. In the women’s competition Canada was the best followed by USA and Germany. Some criticized the otherwise well-organized competition for being held in Canada, the cold Northern waters blamed for only 10 countries participating.
One other important event that year was the BIOS Open competition, seeing the first freediver, Carlos Coste, officially past 100 meters depth in Constant Weight.
Local clubs was organizing, more and more, individual pool competitions and in 2005, Sébastien Nagel organized the 1st AIDA Individual World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. The competition disciplines where Static Apnea, Dynamic Apnea with Fins and Dynamic Apnea without Fins. The best athletes in the world surpassed 200 meters in Dynamic and 8 minutes in Static, with 3 new world records set by new female master Natalia Molchanova from Russia. A new surface protocol had been
introduced in response to controversy surrounding past ruling on the “Samba” phenomenon (loss of motor control upon exit). A mere week later the 2nd AIDA Individual World Championship was organized in Nice covering the Constant Weight discipline, and again Molchanova claimed the gold.
In 2005 Sébastien Nagel stepped back from being the president of AIDA International after 6 years, and an experienced freediver, Bill Strömberg from Sweden took his place. He took over an AIDA that by now administered competitions all over the world, being organized almost on a weekly basis, and with the community steadily growing. A new AIDA website was launched, now including an official set of world ranking lists, which had existed a few seasons prior as an Internet bootleg version. Contemporary freedivers now included Alexey Molchanov from Russia, young son of Natalia, Ryuzo Shinomiya (Japan), Peter Pedersen (Denmark), Juraj Karpis (Slovakia), Tom Sietas (Germany), Patrick Musimu (Belgium), and Johanna Nordblad (Finland).
Tom Sietas became a dominating figure across all pool disciplines. One 2004 static world record of 8’58” stood unsurpassed for nearly two years. He is credited as the first to use neck weights in Dynamic Apnea, revolutionizing these events.
To History page 4