Down to their last gasp

Their bodies shook and their faces turned blue as New Zealand’s best freedivers kept holding their breath in Queenstown yesterday.

Competing in the static apnea discipline in the Freediving New Zealand Pool Nationals, Titahi Bay’s Guy Brew held his breath for 8min 11sec while organiser and competitor Kathryn Nevatt, of Arrowtown, held hers for 7min 7sec.

They were among 26 competitors on the first day of the three-day competition at Alpine Aqualand pool in Frankton.

In static apnea, divers hold their breath for as long as they can while lying face down on the water.

Kathryn Nevatt, of Queenstown, free diving at an earlier event. Photos: Aliscia Young/GALAXIID &...
Kathryn Nevatt, of Queenstown, free diving at an earlier event. Photos: Aliscia Young/GALAXIID & Guy Williams
Queenstown Freediving Club member Jago Lowden, who is competing in the event’s recreational grade, said he took up the sport six months ago.

Preparing for their static apnea breath holds are (bottom) Gemma O’Brien, of Northland, and...
Preparing for their static apnea breath holds are (bottom) Gemma O’Brien, of Northland, and Kathryn Nevatt (centre), of Queenstown, while in-water coach Tania Rounthwaite, of Whanganui, looks on.
A regular lane swimmer at the pool, he joined the club after becoming intrigued while watching Nevatt and other club members training.

He now trained two or three times a week, and was thrilled to be competing side-by-side with the country’s top exponents.

"It’s an inspiration to see what they can do."

The sport offered a mental challenge different from the physical demands of other sports he had tried, such as cycling and marathon.

Although freediving had its own physical challenges — wracking chest contractions as the body was starved of oxygen —  it also gave him a "real sense of calm".

Nevatt, a former world champion and world record-holder in various disciplines, said she was looking forward to today’s dynamic no fins discipline, in which divers swim the longest possible distance on a single breath without the aid of fins.

The competition finishes tomorrow.

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