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In October 2002, Audrey Mestre both set a world record for free diving and died in an attempt to extend it further. This extreme sport is fascinating for sports physicians as it represents a very practical demonstration of pulmonary physiology.
Free diving was made popular by the 1988 French film, The Big Blue, which was inspired by real events and featured spectacular underwater cinematography. Currently there are more than 20 000 free divers worldwide and the numbers are growing. The International Association of Free Divers (IAFD) based in Miami, USA oversees the sport and certifies world records.
Most free divers use the “constant ballast” technique in which divers use fins but no extra weights to dive as deep as possible before coming up for air. “No limit” free divers take it further by using a metal sled (weighing 90kg) that slides down a vinyl coated steel …