World's Best Free Diver Presumed Dead After Dive
Natalia Molchanova, who set 41 world records, was on a recreational swim
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2015 7:15 PM CDT
A frame grab from video of Natalia Molchanova.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – The woman considered to be the "greatest free diver in history," who could hold her breath for more than nine minutes while submerged in a pool, is presumed to have drowned while diving off the coast of Spain near Ibiza on Sunday, reports the New York Times. Natalia Molchanova was diving with friends for fun when she failed to resurface. The son of the 53-year-old Russian diver believes his mother is dead after a three-day search involving divers, private boats, the Coast Guard, a helicopter, and an underwater robot failed to locate her. The diving community seems resigned to her death as well, notes the Guardian.

In her decades as a free diver, Molchanova set 41 world records and won 23 world champion titles; she set her own record for deepest dive without fins in May, descending to approximately 233 feet. (You can see a 30-second clip of it here. It's literally breathtaking.) It's not clear what went wrong during her dive Sunday, says a statement from her family and the global federation for free diving. Strong currents, a layer of cold water, or sharks could have all played a part. "She was a free-diving superstar, and we all thought nothing could happen to her," the president of the federation tells the Times. "But, we are playing with the ocean, and when you play with the ocean you know who is the strongest one."
 

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