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Mullingar's Dave McGowan, known for his recent achievements in the sport of freediving, takes his place on the podium once more. Last week, at the Aida International Blue Ocean Freedivers Pool Competition in Dahab, Egypt, McGowan took the Male Honours in both disciplines that he participated in and also took the overall gold.

Dave McGowan prepares for a freediveDave McGowan prepares for a freedive

Day one of the competition did not necessarily go to plan, with a malfunctioning dive computer contributing to McGowan overshooting his target, coming very close to losing consciousness on the surface and ultimately receiving a red card and disqualifying his dive of 162m, which took approximately 2minutes and 45 seconds. McGowan was quoted saying, "This dive of 162m was huge for me, I had built up to a distance of 135m in training and was confident that I could do 10-15m more on the day of the competition but certainly not almost 30m extra. I had been relying on the computer to give me a good idea of when I could surface and when it didn't work it had me questioning the distance that I had already covered, trying to work this kind of thing out at the end of such a long swim on one breath is not an easy thing. The mind becomes foggy and basic tasks rely on an element of the subconscious to get you through it. I essentially got it wrong and ended up swimming almost another complete length of the pool. I was surprised to be told that I had covered 160m+ when in my head I had barely made 135m." Unfortunately, at the end of the dive, McGowan was not able to complete the 'Surface Protocol', which signals to the judges that he is ok and was subsequently shown a red card.

Dave McGowan celebrates his win in the pool in EgyptDave McGowan celebrates his win in the pool in Egypt

McGowan returned on Day 2 determined to set the record straight. He completed his dive of 150m (equivalent to 6 lengths of a standard 25m pool) in the DYNb discipline (distance swam in pool on one breath using freediving fins) in a time of 2minutes and 35 seconds. This time he made a clean surface protocol, receiving a white card from the judges, legitimising his performance and confirming this dive as his 4th Irish National Record. "I wasn't really nervous leading into day one of this competition as I had approached my training in a conservative way and knew what I was capable of, however, arriving here on day 2 after what had happened on the first day I was feeling the nerves creep into the pit of my stomach. This sport is so psychological, it takes such mental strength, you really need to be able to control your thoughts and feelings and at times like these, in the moments before a record dive you have to be able to focus and get rid of any thoughts of negativity or doubts in your abilities. I feel like I handled it quite well and managed to complete what I had set as an upper limit for myself. I would have walked away satisfied with my performance and also with the record in anything above 132m, so to have been able to do 150m I really am over the moon – it was a difficult dive for me and for sure it will be difficult for anyone to beat in the future."

Day 3 saw McGowan return to finish off the competition with a 'fun' dive in the DNF or 'No-fins' discipline, (distance swam underwater on one breath in a style similar to the breast-stroke). In both depth and pool, this discipline is usually considered the most pure, and most original of all of the freediving disciplines, it is graceful to watch and more-so with the right training and technique, enjoyable to compete in. McGowan's swim of 116m in 2mins 19 secs places him 3rd of all time in the Irish rankings for this discipline.

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Just over a week ago, from the 22nd to the 26th of September in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt Irish freediver Dave McGowan attended the AIDA Freediving World Depth Competition, hosted by World Record holder Andrea Zuccari. McGowan's aim was to consolidate his training best performances in competition to secure his spot in the record books and become the most successful Freediver in Irish history.

Already on day one of the competition, McGowan had his sights set on the Irish record, however with this being McGowan's first depth competition, being held in unfamiliar surroundings and the unknown effect of how competition nerves would impact his performance, McGowan announced a relatively conservative dive to 65 metres in the newly recognised Bi-Fins disciple. In order to be the first to set a record in this discipline, McGowan needed to reach a depth of 61 meters (this corresponds to 75% of the Monofin depth record). McGowan completed the 65m dive in a time of 2 minutes and 2 seconds. This also secured his place as the second-ever deepest Irish Freediver.

Irish Free diver Dave McGowanIrish Free diver Dave McGowan in action in Egypt. Freediving is a niche sport where the athletes hold their breath and swim down along a rope into the deep sea or perform multiple lengths of a swimming pool on one breath, there are currently 8 different recognised competition disciplines where records can be set.

On day two of the competition conditions seemed to worsen, with strong swell and currents felt down to depths in excess of 40 metres. However, with freediving competitions, each diver must announce his dive the night before and cannot change the discipline or the depth without penalty or disqualification. A depth of 71 meters was McGowan's target, his personal best depth during training. Nerves were building in the morning with a long wait before his predefined dive time. The 'official top' was set for 15:00 and even though during the warm-up dives, there seemed to be a lot of commotion with other divers having trouble with the conditions, some even blacking out and needing to be rescued by the safety crew, McGowan kept his composure and at exactly 15:00 started his dive to 71 metres. and returned to the surface in a time of 2 minutes and 16 seconds.

The plan for the final two days of the competition was to continue with the Bi-fins discipline, increasing the record depth even further. However, with the challenging and changeable sea conditions, McGowan consulted with his Coach and training buddies and having already achieved far more than he set out to do in his very first depth competition, the decision was taken that it would be sensible to finish the competition with 4 successful dives and so the final 2 days would be conservative dives in other disciplines.

Dahab, known throughout the world as the mecca for freedivingDahab, known throughout the world as the mecca for freediving, this town has been enticing freedivers from all over the globe for decades. The warm clear and deep waters, year-round sun and a friendly chilled out atmosphere are amongst the many attractions that keep drawing people back

The last two days saw McGowan complete a 66-metre dive in the Monofin discipline and a 70m dive in the Free Immersion discipline, both of these just happened to be personal best performances for McGowan.

Having only competed in 3 out of the 4 disciplines, McGowan was not holding out for a podium position, however to his surprise, due to the strength of his dives and not receiving any penalties, he narrowly missed out on 3rd place, finishing a respectable 4th overall.

With 4 strong dives logged in this competition, 2 new National Records, added to McGowans previous Irish Record in Static Apnea, secures him the top spot as most successful ever Irish Freediver.

McGowan had been training hard during the COVID lockdown in Dahab, Egypt and in order to raise the funds to attend this competition, had organised a GoFundMe. McGowan was quoted saying; "Without the help of all of the contributors to this fundraiser, these record attempts would just not have been possible and even though Freediving is an individual sport, this has very much been a collaborative effort. There is no way I could have achieved this without the help and support from everybody; friends, family, dive buddy's, mentors and everyone that was rooting for me over the last week and for that I am eternally grateful." 

As a gesture of thanks, McGowan added the names of each and every contributor to the fins he used to break the Irish RecordAs a gesture of thanks, McGowan added the names of each and every contributor to the fins he used to break the Irish Record

McGowan's next big target is to continue his training over the winter, with the ultimate goal of representing Ireland at the Freediving Depth World Championships next autumn, and potentially setting some more Irish records along the way.

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