On Sunday 10 April, the 7th Great Northern International and the BFA UK National Pool Championships, organised by Steve Millard of www.learn2freedive.com was held at Wright Robinson School Sports College in Manchester (wrightrobinson.co.uk).
The Great Northern looked and felt a little different this year, being held on one day with two disciplines in the 25m pool, however athletes from the UK and Europe flocked to this friendly event with enthusiasm, with the promise of displaying some impressive performances.
And they didn’t disappoint. The UK male winner was Adam Drzazga from Blue Water freediving club with two strong performances; a huge 7.18 STA and 154m DYN. Coming in second for the Brits was Steven Tasker with 135m DYN and 4.59 STA and very close in third Paul Butterworth, with 5.02 STA and 132m DYN, both from the local Apneists UK club. Notably both Steven and Paul swam in bi-fins rather than the usual monofin. In first place for International male was also Adam Drzazga. Coming in second with an impressive performance was Aristo Vounakis from Apnea Revolution club with 5.27 STA and 130m DNF, and Marco Piccioni in third place with 113m DNF and 5.47 STA. Eoin Clarke set an Irish National Record in his dynamic swim of 117m DNF.
The UK female winner was Alice Hickson, last year’s Newbie Award winner and also DNF World Champion in 2015, with a solid 130m DNF and 6:33 STA. Alice trains with the Bristol Freedivers club along with Rose Van-Gowler who came second with a 3.39 STA and 68m DNF. In third place with a 2.31 STA and 70m DYN was Kate Goodwin. Alice also took the top prize for International female, with Go Freediving Club’s Delphine Brise from France in second, swimming 115m DYN and 3.23 STA and Rose Van-Gowler in third. Camilla Argent set an Irish National Record for the ladies, swimming 80m Dynamic.
The winners of the Newbie Awards were Delphine Brise and Phillip Fennell.
The Great Northern is a competition that celebrates achievements both in the pool and the hard training effort it takes to get there. It recognizes that freediving is not always about numbers and times but about personal achievements and obstacles overcome. Sometimes dives won’t go as planned and it shows the true strength of an athlete to learn from their experience and come back stronger next time. The sense of atmosphere at this year’s competition spoke volumes, with athletes from clubs all over the UK and indeed the world, coaching, congratulating and celebrating personal bests with genuine enthusiasm.
The official kit sponsors were: Omer Breathless Emotions (www.omersub.com), part of the Aqua Sphere UK and Aqua Lung UK family, Blue Orb (www.blue-orb.uk) and the British Freediving Association (www.britishfreediving.org).