Freediving the World Record
by Marianna Gillespie
I put on my wetsuit, fix a little weight around my neck, make sure that my lanyard is attached well, grab my fins and jump in the water. Warm Caribbean water is even warmer than in the kids swimming pool. I look at the blue abyss underneath me and try not to think about what I’m just about to do. My heart is racing, I can hear every beat echoing in my eardrums. The countdown has started, I have 2 minutes before the official top. I have to do it. I am on the top of my athletic performance, I will manage it. The judge is shouting: 5-4-3-2-1-official top! I inhale as deep as I can, pack additional air in my lungs and start my dive to set a new world record.
I started freediving back in 2012. I’ve read everything I could find on the internet, I saw all Guillaume Nery videos and I’ve been following freediving pool competition results, thinking that I can do better than this. Coming from competitive swimming, a desire to be on the podium was deep inside me. During the 10 years that I’ve been competing in swimming, I barely stood on the podium more than 5 times. My first freediving competition in the pool, 1 month after I started training, I won first place – and I fell in love with that sport straight away.
By now, I have 13 medals from the World Championships – 6 of them are Gold. My dream was to beat a World Record one day.
As I descent, the blue colour of the sea is becoming darker, I can only see the diving line in front of me and a yellow drone, which is transmitting my dive on the screens all over the World. I have to fin quite hard to reach negative buoyancy and obtain optimal speed. Around -65 meters I stop finning and start my freefall. Everything feels perfect – my equalisation is working amazingly well, my body is relaxed, I don’t feel any current underwater. I close my eyes and am just enjoying the dive. 5 meters before the turn, my alarm goes off to wake me up and tell me that I have to turn. Half of the way is already done! I grab a tag from the bottom plate – I have to show it to the judges as a proof of reached depth, and attach it to my wetsuit.
The way up is always demanding. I’m at -97 meters deep, and I have to fin hard to come back to the surface. Negative buoyancy is pulling me down, so if I stop finning I will sink back down. But I did this already in training, my muscles are trained to do bigger distances, I have nothing to worry about. I focus on my finning technique and close my eyes. When I open my eyes, I see the safety divers, which means that I have 35-40 more meters to go. My legs are getting tired at this moment, but I feel fine. At -20 meters the positive buoyancy is starting to lift me up – so I can finally relax and let the sea help me. A couple of seconds later, I’m breaking the surface – my first thought – oh my god, I did it! I complete the surface protocol, showing the ok sign to the judges and wait for their validation. I’ve got it! I just set a new World Record! I am so happy and relieved at the same time. I can’t stop smiling, and I know that next time I can do more!
Marianna Gillespie is a French competitive freediver and a fourth element freedive ambassador. World record holder and 6 times World Champion, she currently holds all French National records in depth freediving disciplines (constant weight monofin, bifins, no fins and free immersion) and in the pool (dynamic with fins).