The heats are now all done. I managed a new personal best with a monofin of 211m, which was enough for a B final (places 8-16), meaning I’ve at least achieved my pre-competition goals of making the A & B finals, plus set two competition best performances. After a very unsuccessful campaign two years ago, I’m both happy and relieved with how this championship has progressed. My dynamic went pretty much to plan, despite not having a 50m pool to train in back home. My new pacing with a constant kick technique was exactly where I wanted it, with each length taking 36 seconds (quite fast by freediving standards), so that was a relief. The constant kick approach is a relatively new one to me, but I think it’s a worthwhile experiment. I had a bit more in the tank at the end of this dive, but really wanted to make sure I didn’t push too hard and end up disqualifying myself, so I came up as soon as I felt a bit fuzzy headed. It’s a hard feeling to describe and I think all divers feel different things, but there’s almost always some sort of warning sign of an impending blackout. Sometimes they’re hard to identify and of course sometimes you only identify them with the benefit of hindsight, but judging when to come up is a fine art that some have mastered better than others. I’m happy with my decision to play it safer this time, but in the same situation during the final, I might make a different decision.
Going back to my previous world champs here in 2013, it enforces how psychological the sport is. While my training beforehand was not exactly ideal, the biggest issues I had last time were in my mind and not my body. Feeling like I wasn’t prepared meant that I had no confidence in my own ability, while other things on my mind put me in a very negative place before, during and after my dives. These things have a habit of snowballing; turning minor irritations or mistakes into crippling ones. It’s the classic downward spiral. When your mind is in a positive frame, it just doesn’t happen that way. Nothing leading into the no fins dive on the first day in 2013 was actually a major problem, but internally I turned them into something bigger. The end result was me being so upset and angry with myself during the dive that I came up and failed my surface protocol – earning a disqualification. By the next day, all I could think was ‘why am I even here?’. I started swimming in my with fins heat in perhaps the most negative headspace I’ve ever had during a competition and convinced that not only was this going to be a terrible dive, but this would be my last world championships and probably my last freediving competition ever. Unsurprisingly, I pulled out of the swim at 100m wondering why I even started it. I came back home with no intention of ever competing again and decided to focus on other sports. Luckily I eventually came to terms with what had happened and why; slowly working my way back into training and then competition again with a bit more experience and perspective.
While this year I look forward to finals tomorrow, I’m also looking at others whose competition has gone more like mine in 2013. We always see and remember the success stories, but forget about the failures that surround them. For all sorts of reasons, we fall short. We all fail and when we do, it hurts. Some people pick things up and try again, others can’t or don’t. When you see the results, rightfully celebrating the winners and congratulating those who have succeeded, spare a thought for those who didn’t.