5th AIDA Team World Championship 2007
- a summary by Sebastian Naslund
It took place in Hurghada, along the Red Sea. Organized by Yehia Sawat running a local dive club (Bubbles). Ambitions where high. A whole set of cameras and underwater housings where bought in order to make this the best televised WC ever, and there where some 30-40 handpicked 17-18 year old exchange students as support team in funny "ask me" t-shirts. (During the first days no one dared to ask them anything, because they looked quite confused).
Sun was shining, the sea was blue clear and deep. The buffé was overhelming, the beds were wide (some people found that you could actually fit another person in them). Lots of pools of differnt temperatures, green grass. And "old friends long time see".
During training days and at captains meetings we slowly realized that the WC organizer was not ready for it. There was no control over details around the diving site. All the gear (most of) was there - but there were no one to actually fit it all together to a world championship. We had a very nice hotel placed just "a few" swim strokes from a deep dive site. A huge barge giving the calmest dive site ever seen in a WC, big boats for athletes and crew. Buses for transportation, lots of food, good meeting room. But what was lacking was an experienced crew.
Training got started with the usual confusion around the depths of each line and some went for a maximum dive only to be stopped to early. The italians were back in the Aida world championship. One of the female athletes suffered a deep and serious BO during the training and even though deducting alot of meters for the competition it was repeated again.
"From an athlete's perspective, it looked to me that the whole competition was near to collapse on more than one occasion. Without the volunteers that stepped in to help, along with the judges, I am sure that would have happened". Mark Harris writes on Deeperblue. And almost every day there where crisis meeting inbetween Yehia and the judge team. First day of compeeting was cancelled, the judges did not feel the organizer was ready to hold a competition.
Yehia, who himself has taken part in a world championship (Ibiza 2001, the biggest WC so far, hosted by Apnea Academy at a Club med), he had just before the Hurghada championship been faced with a divorce and lost what would have been a good crew member. We could all see that the job as a head organizer with very few competent leutenants (or lack of delegation) did not leave him many hours sleep during the days preceeding the WC.
The main safetydiver (one of only a couple) rammed the barge during training days and had himself to be "rescued". In the end an international team took care of the safety freediving. For the realy deep safety dives some of our more experienced athletes stepped in.
Getting it all together
Bill Strömberg, the president of Aida writes: "In the end I was very surprised how good the c/o organizers, the 5 judges and Kirk Krack took over and run this comp without any obligation to do so. We have them to thanks that we actually have a result list in the end". Myself I wrote on Deeperblue: "I also feel that the Aida international board let this happen to an extent. Was not the president flown down to Egypt some weeks in advance and several times exclaimed - "this will be the best ever". But as we all know a lot of promises was not fullfilled. There was talk of Suunto watches to all the winners (like they did have enough of the already), but they saw non of that. When asked why the pool was about 10 degrees celcius colder than pormised on the website (a wenbsite that was dead the last two months), Yehia answered: "The pool was 26 degrees when you asked" (during summer). A lot of people was almost hostile towards Yehia and what was felt like more deception than failure, Lotta Ericson and Stig Severeinsen was the most straightforward. Carlos Coste coaching Venezuela (almost recovered from his DCS injury) phrased it more diplomatic:"I think you owe us an apologhy". No apologhy came but Yehia bent realy tried to fullfill the wish of the judges and teamcaptains. Kirk Krack asked for "more focus on the athletes needs and less on media issues".Summing it up wisely Deron Vaerbeck puts it: "Until the sport of freediving moves into the mainstream media spotlight, we all are passionate amateurs (organizers and athletes alike) and we have to grow and occasionally work together. In an ideal situation we would all be able to "show up, put on our fins and just swim" (quote from Capt. meeting Egypt). But it's not always like that.".
The feel good factor
Other, more laid back athletes had other impressions of the whole event: "The main reason for my good results was that I spend a fabulous time at this event. The feel good factor is my secret for good dives." Herbert Nietsch on Deeperblue. And Herbert from Austria had a faboulus ending of a faboulus year. In competition he pulled of a World Record dive to 111 meters and former record holder Guillaume Nery only got a few weeks to enjoy his successfull 109 meter dive. Herbert did a record attempt after the competition and after 18 tries (not all "feel good" I pressume) he made it to 9.04 in static, a static world record. Adding his current 183 meter no-limit record he is truly the best freediver in the world today.
Chris Engelbrecht, has been the fiercest attacker of the event and the most positive remark I have found him saying is this: "... the badge of 20+ volunteers, Egyptian or foreign, mostly teenagers, whose lack of training in being a part of such a major sports event was redeemed by their willingness to give all they had and learn as they went, despite that they worked for free and weren't even being fed or watered some days".
On the sixt day I chanced to ask one of the "askmegirls" if she could fix transportation to the pool within an hour. To my suprise she pulled a mobile (in a mcgywer kind of way), barked some orders and informed me that a van would be standing by the main entrance in one hour. And it did!
Media and money
One of the exchange girls missed to close a camerahousing properly and a new HDV Somy camera was flooded. One can not expect non professionals to perform under stress. Luckily there were some professionals around. Kirk Krack moved his attention away from the own canadian team and took control of the competition site during certain days. One day before the first dive day I found myself and Dan Burton helping Stefan (in charge of cameras) to get the cameras operationals in the housings. I did a quick drawing of what was needed to be welded during the night in order to be able to mount the bottom cameras. Dan organized the filming at depth together with Stefan. The usual suspects of filmers/phographers where there Fred Buyle, Dan Burton and for myself this was my third WC reporting for media and having the opportunity of filming by the line.
Yehia got himself cursed many times by mediapeople trying to contact him. The danish team (sure about the gold from day one) had spent private money on a "sponsorfinder". Stig Severinsen have good contacts with a TV production team and they had already guaranteed 15 minute on prime time national TV. But they could not get a go ahead from Yehia. Without that they could not guarantee a program and without that the sponsors shyed away from the danish favourites. At one point Yehia wanted 3000 USD for a minute of underwater material. This is about the whole budget a freelance team in a small country can be offered for whole TV feature. A TV-feature that might change the conditions for the freediving culture in that country. All media enquiaries were put more or less on hold by Yehia - failing to promiss any access at all. In the end he needed the help of the present danish/swedish filmteam and a cooperation started.
Yehia had spent money on on a 30 page broschure selling the championship to media. Professional layout, no expenses saved. Exclusive world rights was offered for more than 6 million dollars. In the end Yehia found no main media partner. As far as I understand the live broadcast at egyptian Nilesport TV did not generate any income. Today news media expect to broadcast material for free. The money is assumed to come from corporate sponsoring and product placement.
These waters in Makadi bay were perfect for deep diving, some might have wished for more than 21 degrees Celcius but some of the finnish teammembers found it very warm and dived without suits. Unfortunately Johanna Nordblad was DQ in depth because doing the SP wrong. Those missed points could have placed them close the medals. Russian men and Eritrea was red carded for starting their warm-up too early. Head judge Grant was called racists in the process. He was very surprised.
Derrick Arripol of Brasil got his lifeline tangled in the tagcarabeeners and came up with a BO. After protest he got a second chance at personal best 60 meters with bi-fins, but came up with another BO. The judges said that the amount of LMC was disturbingly high in view of this being a team competition.The czeck team (silvermedal) might have been able to put more pressure on the danes, but Martin Stepanek fullfilled the competition with a flu in his body, doing a 100 meter CWT coming up grey in the face.
Aida saw a new country the first ever black african team. Eritrea. The dives were good but minor rules were viloated and they saw unnecessary red and yellow cards. Two countries I have predicted as future dominators (Japan and Finland) finished 4th and 6th. The italian men who most often consider themselves the best freedivers in the world did not realy attend. One male turned up (thank you) and three females led by the high performer Linda Pagianelli doing 72 meter i CWT.
One day a rumour was spread that the organizer had not paid for the hotel. This made a lot of athletes nervous since the reception withheld everybodies passports. many wanted to get their passport but the answer was: "it is our rutine to hold the passports". Previosusly we had been informed that we were "not real guests". The italians "stormed" the reception (yes those southern continental europeeans talk fast, loud and with their arms). After a short siege alla passports was handed out.
Wolle Neugebauer from Germany did not come because it was too expensive. He reminded us that Yehia at one stage said that if would be free for the athletes because of many good sponsors. Wolle found that for the 200 total attendats at the world cup paying 470 euro (370 non competitors) the total income from fees was more than 80.000 euro. He continues "I found many offers for the fort arabesque starting from 16 dollar per day per bed (all inclusive board). That would mean some 30.000 euro for the hotel and the rest for organizational expenses.
The event doctor (Gresham) says on Deeperblue: "we have to admit that this competetion was really very successfully and organization was great this is the first aida championship to be filmed live from under the water.../... which hasn´t happen before in the history of aida competetions.../...and the athletes themselves felt like stars".
One star we missed was Tom Sietas, with him in the team accompanied by Wolle and maybe Hubert Meier (is he still diving?) the ranking could have looked different. Alexy Molchanova from Russia did the longest dynamic dive, turning at 200 and ending at 207. At this point the danish team had moved from 5th place after CWT (still 36 points behind the czech), up to 4th place after Static and felt they could comfartably enter the pool to get their gold medals. The pool was found about a day before the dynamic competition, many athletes were not happy with the first pool, dirty, cold and no straight edges. It was talk of canceling the dynamic discipline and the danish got very upset seeing their gold medal slipping out of their hands. The new 50 meter pool turned out to be perfect, 50 meter, even 1.8 depth and the kind of temperature that Eric Fattah would have liked (17 degrees celcius). Some people could stand the chill most others excelled in the cold waters enhancing their dive response. The swedish silver ladies did two personal best. The danish men all have passed 200 meters in training and did not have to push themselves in the last discipline. It was all fait accompli. The women gold medalist had an even easier ride than the men. Natalja Molchanova turned out to be the best point collector over all including all men. The first three places of the women teams was set already after the CWT dives, Sweden falling back two point behind canada during static, but took that back in the dynamic.
For people like myself who enjoy some chaos (which borders to creativity) and for people just relaxing and waiting for news it was all in all a very pleasurable competition. Others who were teamcaptains and judges and crew felt more stress and frustration, beacuse of the organizer. But lets not forget that we have very few people in this world ready to take on a WC. Yehia M Sawat did it! And if he ever organizes a competition again I believe he have all the experience needed to make a very good event. I myself had a very good and creative time in Hurghada.
In the end we had a competition with good diving conditions and we have a result list.
|5th AIDA Team World Championship 2006
||Serbia & Mon
The highest scoring competitor in the Championships:
MOLCHANOVA Natalia, 249,3p
CRUICKSHANK Mandy-Rae, 208,1p
AVSEENKO Natalia, 207,4p
KRISTOFFERSEN Elisabeth, 207p
WINRAM William, 248,4p
SHINOMIYA Ryuzo, 248,2p
PEDERSEN Peter, 247,3p
STEPANEK Martin, 239,8p
Best nations overall (men/women) points
1. Sweden - 1,197.9
2. France - 1,189,7
3. Canada - 1,129.7
4. Finland - 1,113.8
5. Russia - 1,083.4
6. Japan - 1,075.3
7. Denmark - 1,063.3
8. USA - 1,031.7
9. Venezuela - 1,010.9
10. Greece - 999.6