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His Renowned Mother Vanished. He Kept Diving

A look at free diver Alexey Molchanov's latest feat
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2021 10:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – That Alexey Molchanov spent 2 minutes and 53 seconds in water that was just a degree or two over freezing and didn't die isn't even the amazing part. It's that he managed to swim down 262 feet and back without taking a breath, setting another world record for the already decorated free diver. The New York Times recounts the 34-year-old's feat in Siberia on March 16, where the air temp was just 14 degrees and the dive was more challenging than usual. Free divers usually take the winter off. Not Molchanov, who 13 months ago set a world record by swimming a distance of 591 feet under ice. For this attempt, he had to don a much thicker wetsuit, which forced him to kick harder for the first 10 seconds or so, using up valuable oxygen.

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He also had to wear a mask for warmth, which prevented his ability to use a nose clip; he had to pinch his nose shut using two fingers. That wasn't the only thing he had to pinch: To prevent the air from escaping his puffed cheeks, he had to ensure his numb lips stayed shut using two other fingers. He reached a glowing plate, grabbed the black tag attached to it, and successfully made his way up, securing his 20th world record. But there's more to Molchanov's story, as the Times shares. His mother, Natalia Molchanova, was the best free diver on the planet when she vanished while teaching a private lesson in 2015. While his sister, also a free diver and instructor, stayed out of the water for two years, Molchanov did the opposite. A profile on him at Men's Health observes that prior to his mother's disappearance, "Alexey had been a fierce competitor and a promising young diver; after, he's become the world's best. He's become something else too: a kind of millennial evangelist for his sport," with a robust Instagram following. (Read more free diving stories.)

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