SINGAPORE – Lim Yee Hui, 28, competed in the June 12 AIDA Get ecSTAtic! Competition held in Singapore and broke the static apnea (STA) national record.
In the STA discipline, freedivers attempt to hold their breaths for the longest time possible while submerged in water. As soon as their airways enter the pool or ocean, the time is started, and the moment either airway exits the water, the time is stopped.
Prior to the Get ecSTAtic! Competition, the Singapore women’s national record had stood for almost a year and a half, set by Paola Seow in Jan 2021 with a time of 5 minutes and 36 seconds.
During the competition attempt, Lim began her dive at the same moment as another Singaporean competitor, Elys Lai, 44, who broke Seow’s time with a new national record of 5 minutes 41 seconds. The group of spectators applauded and then turned back to Lim—she had still not surfaced.
Exactly 16 seconds later Lim erupted from the water, took a few quick breaths to reoxygenate the air in her lungs, removed her nose clip and goggles, signed that she was okay with her hand, and clearly spoke the words, “I’m okay” to the judge.
The correct completion of this formal surface protocol is a requirement under the regulations of the International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) in competitions. It assesses that the diver is fully conscious and clear-headed after a long period without oxygen.
After a few suspenseful seconds, the judge raised a white card indicating a clean dive and another new Singaporean national record was made.
Static apnea breath holds require both mental as well as physical resilience in order to overcome the body’s fight and flight response once the “urge-to-breath” becomes strong. This is especially true during competition, as Lim explained after her dive: “It’s been a while since I did statics in competition, especially as it isn’t my forte at all. I was trying not to be overly nervous.”
During the attempt, Lim’s coach Jonathan Chong, himself a national record holder in the men’s division, talked her through the dive. The importance of an experienced coach cannot be overstated, explained Lim, “They are there to look over you during your dive and, when needed, make the judgement call for the athlete especially when they start getting hypoxic.”
When hypoxia sets in and the brain starts to operate on reduced levels of oxygen, a sense of euphoria often emerges which can cloud the diver’s ability to assess how lucid they are. This poses a risk to the diver who may not realise they are close to losing consciousness. An experienced coach can spot these signs and signal for the diver to come up. Likewise the coach can guide the diver through the surface protocol to ensure a clean finish to the dive.
Third place in the women’s division was taken by another Singaporean, Michelle Ooi, with a time 5 minutes and 16 seconds.
In the men’s division, Thomas Way of the UK took first place with a dive time of 7 minutes and 7 seconds, placing third overall in the UK national rankings.
Second place was taken by Estonian Dmitri Melnikov with a time of 6 minutes and 35 seconds, a little short of his own national record time of 7 minutes 22 seconds.
Darrell Teng of Malaysia took third place with a final time of 6 minutes and 5 seconds. The Get ecSTAtic! Competition was Teng’s first freediving competition experience and put him second in the Malaysian rankings, behind Paul Wei-Kei Sack with a time of 6 minutes and 17 seconds.
Thomas Way told AAS that the Get ecSTAtic! Competition was born during the Covid-19 lockdown, where a small group of freediving friends got together to practice in private pools while adhering to the frequently changing regulations on group sizes.
This led to the group’s first competition in December 2021 with only five competitors. Once restrictions were eased, the Get ecSTAtic! June competition was planned as a way to offer more competition experience to Singapore’s freedivers.
Event organizer Patricia Ong told AAS that, “The Get ecSTAtic! is a great comp because it’s inclusive to all freedivers, no matter what level they are, and lets them get together and experience competition in a relaxed way.”
Lim is pragmatic about her future goals for competition: “I’m just taking it one step at a time!”, she reported.
AAS would like to congratulate Lim Yee Hui for her national record and celebrates the current competition environment in Singapore. We believe the growth of our sport in a safe and enjoyable manner is one of our primary missions.