Breath-holding and Freediving Records

In 1952, the first breath holding competition in history took place. The contest is known as static breath holding as it takes place in a type of large aquarium. This is a pool with a glass front and the other sides made of sheet steel, measuring 2.50x2.50x3.00 metres, specifically built for the occasion on the Acquasola esplanade in Genoa.
The "National Competition of Underwater Resistance" (this is the official definition), was held on June 12th. Three teams took part: from the National Diving Course, the Fire-Fighting Unit of Directorate General in Rome, the Divers Sport Association and the Italian Sports Centre, which was also based in Genoa. The "fire fighters" team (which had 6 contenders) had the better of it, proving the efficacy of Professor Ferraro's training method. A fire fighter, Antonio Esposito, consistently prevailed over the other twelve players but did particularly well in the individual classification, where he voluntarily held his breath for a good 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Egidio Cressi managed 3 minutes exactly and came second. Together with him, the other "ussini" came second with their teams.
After a period of stand-still, breath-holding competitions returned to centre stage and gained a certain success. The activity was divided into static and dynamic breath-holding and can be performed in the swimming pool or at open sea.
For many years, Ferraro stood alongside Enzo Maiorca in many of his records. In his book “A capofitto nel turchino” Maiorca entitled one of his chapters "I'll phone Ferraro today", which is indicative of the relationship that existed between the two men. Ferraro is the person behind the records achieved by the Treleani sisters and he is also lavish with his advice to Stefano Makula, a Roman of Hungarian origins.
However, the world of records above all owes its existence to Ferraro. In fact, there was a time when, in the bosom of the CMAS, some people used to deny the utility of records and propose their abolition. It was Ferraro who stopped this by using all his prestige and authority in order to invalidate their theory. This is what he wrote to a Bureau Exécutif at the beginning of the 70s.

"It is a mistake to believe that these records exist for their own sake and that they do not have any use. The underwater world is still to be discovered. Anything that is done to improve our knowledge of it speeds up its conquest. It has been proven that the continental shelf is the only opportunity that humans have left to expand and represents the only solution to future problems relating to hunger and thirst that derive from the increase of world population.
In addition to this paramount contribution there are others that are equally important. Let us remember that only a few years ago medical science believed that man could not go deeper than 30 metres underwater!
Many other claims followed this one, always put forward by influential scientists, who raised the depth limit to 50 m. It therefore has to be recognised that this sport makes science aware that there are many other concepts to attain.
The operations carried out, which raised the record to 80 metres depth, prove that there is still much to be studied and show that man's courage exceeded the limits of science in the interest of present and future generations.
In addition to the above, it is clear that records as they have been performed so far, by a man only equipped with his physical resources, without the support of breathing equipment, contributed enormously to minimise and rationalize the enigmatic and intimidating mystery associated with depth.
Being able to conquer "through breath-holding" 80 of those 200 metres constituting the depth of the continental shelf exploitable by man, represents an encouragement, a simplification, a reduction of significance and brings man a step closer to its complete conquest.
It could be said that no other sporting activity or record gives such a useful and practical contribution as breath-holding does.
Maybe aero-spatial quests and the life of astronauts are put more at risk because of pride and national supremacy purposes rather than of their immediate and practical use.
Mayol's and Maiorca's exploits can be compared to those of Lindbergh in the aeronautical field or to the achievements of the very first navigators, who pushed themselves beyond limits that were unknown at the time. Their efforts contributed to the progress and results achieved today in the aeronautical and shipping fields.
This issue has been discussed other times in the bosom of the C.M.A.S, but only personal opinions were put forward and this aspect was never sufficiently taken into consideration. The representatives of the Medical Commission expressed a warning against the practice, which was simply based on safety arguments and cautious fears without referring to any real cases.
- Keep in mind that certain federations recognize records in compliance with regulations once drafted by the C.M.A.S.
- Consequently, these Federations will perform this activity without any form of international control.
- It would be wiser, more civil, more accommodating and responsible to recognise this activity by imposing regulations, enforcing specific conditions and effective monitoring, which would require thorough support. This is preferable to encouraging the disinterest that gives free reign to arbitrary performances, which are not adequately supported, with results that cannot be monitored, allowing anyone to make their own private attempts.
This should be the duty of a competent international sports organisation, without moving away from the issue at hand.
- It has to be pointed out that there has been no lethal accident that would justify the refusal.
-In underwater fishing, however, in the employment of techniques related to the use of rebreathers, there have been several deaths and no one has ever thought of denying this activity.
- It is absurd that the Confederation responsible for an activity denies a speciality related to the same sport, without giving a plausible reason.
- Furthermore, records draw the attention of the public, the press and of technical experts. They bring more advertising to the sector than any other event and abandoning them is a particularly wrong decision.
- The idea of considering such contests as applied experiments does not make sense because no medical/scientific organisation would take on such administrative task and no sports organisation would be able to take responsibility for it, as it does not fall within its competence ! This theory is therefore inefficient and wrong.
- Finally, what the Bureau Executif ordered on 5/12/1970 has been drafted in a contradictory, confusing and illogical way. It emanates from an intimidated, fearful and confused state of mind in search of a compromise and does not resolve the problem.
- From all of the above it is clear that:
l°) There are no negative cases warning us against the recognition of records.
2°) Records have the useful purposes listed above.
3°) It is wiser, more appropriate and effective to provide the aegis by suitably and strictly regulating the methods of execution.
4°) To decide, in due course, to recognize and regulate the Records until they prove to be negative and then ban them in a reasoned and documented manner, not by assumption as it seems to be happening at the moment.