October 15, 2001 American freediver Tanya Streeter reached a depth of 60 meters at the World Freediving Championships in Ibiza, Spain, this past week, leading the U.S. women's team to a second place finish and furthering her position as the world's best female freediver.
Streeter's dive was the deepest of any woman at the event as well as the deepest by a woman in competition history.
Streeter, of Austin, Texas, holds the current world record in the saltwater "constant ballast" category for a dive of 70 meters, which she completed this May in Guadeloupe, French West Indies. She was participating in the world championships for the first time.
Over 160 male and female competitors from 35 countries came to the Club Med Ibiza to compete in the third-ever World Freediving Championships, which ended on Sunday. Canada won the overall women's competition and Italy took third. In the men's division, Italy took first, France was second, and Sweden third. Herbert Nitsche of the Austrian men's team dove to 86 meters, setting a new world record in the saltwater constant ballast category.
Teams of three competed in two events, the saltwater "constant ballast" discipline and the "static" competition, which takes place in a pool. The "constant ballast" discipline allows divers to use swim fins and weights to help in their descent alongside a weighted line, which they may not pull, but only use for guidance. They must also return to the surface with the same amount of weight with which they descended. Generally, among divers, this is considered the "purist" form of freediving. At the world championships, divers are required to "announce" their intended depth and receive a point per meter. Competition rules do not award points for diving deeper than the announced depth.
On Saturday, freedivers gathered at the Club Med pool to compete en masse in the "static" discipline, a test of a diver's breath hold capacity in which they float face down in a pool and hold their breath for as long as possible. Competitors earn a point for each second they are able to hold their breath.
"You think: how interesting can it be to watch over 150 people floating face down in a pool? But you wouldn't believe it when you are watching the last few competitors going for over eight minutes," Streeter said.
The event, while competitive by design, is one of the few opportunities for the disparate freediving community to convene. "The spirit here is great," said Streeter, "Everyone here has a passion the rest of the world doesn't understand. It's like we all speak the same language, though the irony is that we don't."
Streeter's individual accomplishments at the world championships follow a frustrating attempt in late September at setting two new world freshwater records in Millstatteersee, Austria. In training she reached her intended depths but when time came for officiated dives, Streeter was unable to repeat the performances. Problems with organizers and sponsors led her to eventually cancel further attempts.
Streeter's busy summer also included the filming of a documentary with National Geographic in New Zealand, the U.S. freediving team trials in Kona, Hawaii, and a round of media and appearance work.
Streeter admits that parlaying her recent successes into large-scale sponsorship to support her world record attempts will not be easy. "It's going to be an upward struggle because of the perception of the sport in the U.S., but I'm determined."
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