x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Freediving champion reaches new depths

The UAE's freediving champion reaches new depths after breaking four records at the third Mediterranean World Cup in Greece.

UAE freediving champion Adel Abu Haliqa took up the sport just four years ago.
UAE freediving champion Adel Abu Haliqa took up the sport just four years ago.

ABU DHABI // The UAE's freediving champion has reached new depths after breaking four records at the third Mediterranean World Cup in Greece. The feats are the latest in a long line of achievements for Adel Abu Haliqa, 38, who is the UAE's sole representative in international freediving events and only took up the sport four years ago.

At the World Cup, which finished on Sunday, he joined 60 freedivers from 20 countries exploring the depths off the coastal city of Kalamata in the southern part of the country. "I was honoured and proud to be representing the UAE in the World Cup," said Mr Abu Haliqa, who went down as far as 77 metres on a single breath. In a non-competitive setting, freediving usually involves taking a breath of air at the surface and swimming down and then back up with the help of fins or a monofin.

There are eight competitive freediving disciplines, each testing different skills. One discipline is free immersion, in which divers pull themselves down and then back up along a vertically suspended rope. In Greece, Mr Abu Haliqa improved on his previous record of 37 metres in this discipline, swimming down to 45 metres, finishing eighth in the event. He also broke his record in what many consider the most physically challenging freediving discipline - constant weight without fins - in which the diver swims down and then back up using only their muscle strength. The new UAE record is now 25 metres, two metres deeper than his previous best, which saw him place eighth again.

The Abu Dhabi resident, who became the first Emirati to compete in the world championships in 2008, also broke two Asian continental records. The two disciplines - variable weight and no limits - allow freedivers to achieve greater depths, aided by the use of equipment. Mr Abu Haliqa became the first Asian diver to compete in these disciplines. "Because of the difficulty of these dives, they require a lot of preparation.

"It is a much deeper dive, so the safety procedures are more and it needs a technical mind." But he added: "The dives were all very comfortable and I think I can go deeper." A trained freediving instructor, he is also trying to assemble a UAE national team to compete in future events. "This is a new sport at the moment and the UAE can achieve a lot if we start early," he said. "I would like to see more UAE nationals competing internationally because it is in our blood. Diving for pearls was part of our heritage, so it makes sense to be a well-performing nation in the sport of freediving."

@Email:vtodorova@thenational.ae