Freediving: Alice Hickson & Adam Drzazga named 2019 National Pool Champs!

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Alice Hickson Surfacing. Photo Credit: Daan Verhoeven

Following the recent UK National Pool Freediving Championships, Alice Hickson and Adam Drzazga have been crowned the 2019 British National freediving pool champions!

Alice Hickson bi-fins. Photo Credit: Daan Verhoeven

Alice held her breath for 6 minutes and 38 seconds in the static apnea discipline, swam 162m in dynamic no fins (a stylised form of breast stroke under water) and topped it off by swimming 179m in bi-fins securing herself a national record along the way – and ensuring ownership of all 4 pool disciplines.

Adam held his breath for just under 7 minutes, 6 minutes and 52 seconds to be exact and swam 116m no fins and 117m in bi-fins.

Adam Drzazga Static. Photo Credit: Neil Wood

The overall international female winner was Agnieszka Kalska of Poland who swam 180m in both no fins (a new personal best) and bi-fins (a national record) and held her breath for 6 minutes 49 seconds and the male winner was Tomasz Ratajak also from Poland who scored a hat-trick of personal bests with a no fins swim of 137m, 198m in dynamic with monofin and a 6 minutes 4 seconds static.  The newbie winners were Naura Suksomstarn (04:30 STA, 135m DYN mono, 57m DNF) and Rafael Nolasco (04:52 STA, 177m DYN mono, 106m DNF).

Tomasz Ratajak with Agnieska Kalska

This year’s UK National Pool Freediving Championships was hosted by Bristol Freedivers on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 March.  Forty-five athletes from fourteen countries convened on Hengrove Leisure Centre some vying for a position on the podium, others there to enjoy the fun of competing, maybe trying for national record or a personal best.  Five national records fell, Agnieszka Kalska (POL) 180m DYN bi-fins, Alice Hickson (UK) 179m DYN bi-fins, Rafael Nolasco (BRA) 177m DYN and Naura Suksomstarn (THA) 135m DYN and 57m DNF.  And 56 personal bests were officiated.

Freediving is a sport were you can gain as much enjoyment competing against yourself, trying to improve your own distances or time, as you can from trying to beat a fellow athlete.  In fact it is not uncommon to see two athletes in probable contention for a medal coaching one another and enjoying the success of the other.  Despite the fact of competing under the surface of the water, seemingly alone, you never are. You are constantly surrounded by a team of safety divers, underwater media filming and taking pictures, judges and assistant judges following on the surface and probably a coach.

Agnieska – DNF International Female Winner. Photo Credit: Daan Verhoeven

Having a coach makes it very much a team sport where the coaching can have a direct impact on a performance – in static apnea, the athlete relies on their coach to help them mentally and physically relax while resisting the urge to breathe and keep a quiet eye on them until they surface.  In the dynamic disciplines a coach allows the athlete time to relax and focus inward before the dive by taking away all other distractions, and being there at the end of their dive when they surface to talk them through their surface protocol, which has to happen within 15 seconds of their airways clearing the water in order to meet competition requirements and get a white card from the judge.

This is Bristol Freedivers second time organising the National Freediving Pool Championships and they didn’t disappoint, it was a superbly well organised with top judging, brilliant volunteers, excellent safety and quality sponsorship from Mares, the British Freediving Association, AIDA International, 2971, Infinity Freediving Cyprus, Saltfree Divers and Blue Water Freediving School. Congratulations to the female and male UK podium winners Lucelle Simms and Alex Atkins who took home silver medals and Beci Ryan and Gary McGrath bronze.  And to the International silver medallists Alice Hickson (UK) and Artiso Vounakis (GR), and bronze Lucelle Simms (UK) and Jesper Lauridsen (DEN).

To find out more about freediving in the UK, visit www.britishfreediving.org.

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