The Pan Pacific Freediving Championships officially kicked off on 25th November 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. Organised by the Australian Freediving Association, the competition saw athletes travel from all around the world such as China, Hawaii, Russia, Japan, Malaysia and of course, Singapore.
The competition was an inaugural event and the largest ever freediving event hosted in the Southern Hemisphere. It was held in the Brisbane Aquatic Centre which was first built for the 1982 Commonwealth Games. Judged by some of the world’s top ranking judges, the competition had a world-record status.
Competition organiser and Australian Freediving Association President Michael Bates noted at the opening ceremony that a competition of this scale was a rare and exciting opportunity for Freediving athletes from countries in Oceania. The competition had an impressive (and very exciting) line-up including more than 15 national record holders and world record holders such as Alexey Molchanov, Kathryn Nevatt and Amber Bourke. Representing Singapore were Jonathan Chong, Michelle Ooi and newcomer Valerie Chia.
National Records were abundant across the region for many divers, both veterans and many who are newer to the sport.
The first day of Static Apnea saw two national records fall. The first was by our very own Jonathan Chong who broke the current two and a half year old record with an impressive time of 6 minutes and 17 seconds. The seconds record to fall belonged to our neighbour, Malaysia, by Azam Hamid with a breath hold of 5 minutes and 29 seconds. Russian National Champion Alexey Molchanov held his breath for 8 minutes and 1 second while Kathryn Nevatt held hers for 6 minutes and 50 seconds. Up-and-coming Jessea Lu from China did an impressive 7 minutes and 15 seconds but was red-carded due to her surface protocol.
The second day for Dynamic no Fins (DNF) saw five more national records fall. Pint-sized Nora Lestari from Indonesia finished her swim with an impressive 57m. There was of course plenty of support for local Brisbane Freediver Leigh Woolley who finally broke the Australian National Record.- The last previous record belonged to actor-cum-freediver Tanc Sade and was set in 2012. Woolley officially broke the record with a massive swim of 184m and reportedly surfaced with perfection. Leigh commented on the unique spirit of competitive Freediving saying that the “competitors helping each other out and watching other Freedivers improve has been very inspiring!” Congratulations!
Ayman Abdin set a new Egyptian DNF record of 100m, putting on an impressive 50m over the previous record of 50m. Jaqueline Dent of the U.S.A announced a record attempt in the unofficial (yet still AIDA ranked) division in the afternoon competition and swam 125m but was disqualified after she had a surface black-out. Last but not least were the Singaporeans. Jonathan swam 117m with a dive time of 2 mins and 18 seconds to take out the male Singapore National record. while Michelle Ooi swam 85m to claim the female DNF national record.
The third and final day was set for Dynamic with Fins (DYN). Nora Lestari from Indonesia and Ayman Abdin from Egypt both set new national records with swim of 81m and 106m respectively. Azam Hamid attempted to break the Malaysian record of 123m but unfortunately black-out at 128m.
Jonathan Chong successfully managed a hat-trick, breaking the Singapore DYN national record with a swim of 146m. All eyes however, were on the Singaporean girls Michelle Ooi and Valerie Chia. Valerie Chia first broke the standing national record of 105m with an impressive swim of 121m. Less than an hour later, Michelle Ooi broke Valerie’s new record with a swim 125m. Not to be beaten, Valerie fought back with a super strong swim in the afternoon division finally setting it again at 135m.
The Pan Pacific Freediving Champion for the male category was Alexey Molchonov, Russia. Second place went to Ant Williams, New Zealand and third place to Chris Marshall, also New Zealand.
Kathryn Nevatt from New Zealand provided consistent and impressive swims to take out the first place for the women’s category. In second place Lucja Nowowiejski from Australia and in third place, Singaporean Michelle Ooi.
President of the Australian Freediving Association and competition organiser Michael Bates envisions that the event will travel throughout the region giving athletes in the southern hemisphere the opportunity to compete and be involved in an elite Freediving event.
Discussions are in place as to where the next Pan Pacific Championships will be.