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Sara is a world-class freediver, with three world records and a World Championship Gold medal to her name. Referred to affectionately by her fellow athletes as ‘Mighty Mouse’, she is also the smallest freediver on the circuit, at just under five foot.
In October 2007 Sara became the first woman to hit the 90m mark in freediving using only the natural propulsion of her monofin. She also scored a hat trick by setting three world records in three days, in fact in under 48 hours, ruling in all deep disciplines. And just ten days later she became World Champion in Constant Weight. Amazingly she had made her first competitive dive only seven months previously.
Sara discovered the sport – and her talent for it – by accident. Having moved to Dahab, Egypt, on the Red Sea in 2005 to teach yoga, one of her students commented that her breathhold capacity and love for swimming might make her ‘quite good’ at it. Her response? Why would anyone want to do that? Thankfully her student continued to pester her until she gave in one year later and took her AIDA ** course with Linda Paganelli of Freedive Dahab. It was love at first duckdive.
Her persistence came not from a goal to set records or achieve new depths, but from the simple fact it made her happy. Ridiculously happy. Happy pills without the pills. A natural high. And so she continued….
After six weeks training and diving into the 40s, Sara was hit by hepatitis, just a few days after applying for the British Team for the 2006 World Championships. She was in enforced dry dock for seven months, a hugely frustrating time, but one which shaped her resolve to get back to diving and see what she was made of.
Her first competition dive, just ten days after returning to the water, brought her first National Record, 30m in Constant Weight No Fins. And she discovered the even bigger high of competitive diving and exploring her own physical limits. Seven months – and eleven National Records – later, she was the newly crowned female champion of deep diving. The freediving world was in shock.
As far as Sara’s physiology is concerned and what makes it possible for her to dive so deep, and to have achieved such extreme depths in such a short space of time, is still unclear, which is what makes the sport so interesting. Her lungs are around 22 percent larger than average for a woman or her age and size, which is actually fairly normal for most freedivers – in fact some freedivers lungs are up to 50 percent larger than average! So that’s not her secret. Her size also contradicts traditional beliefs about top freedivers – at under five foot, she’s the smallest freediver in the world, and, as Herbert Nitsch so politely pointed out, ‘she doesn’t have an athletic body’!
So, it is more likely that she has a more advanced dive reflex, which, when we realise that the dive reflex is a throw-back to millions of years ago when humans crawled out of the sea, means simply that she’s a less evolved human being than the rest of us! More fish than female!
Things haven’t been plain sailing for her. During training for two more World Records in May 2008, her mother died and she quit the competitive circuit for the rest of the year. At the beginning of 2009, certainly not over the loss, but back in training, she is looking forward again, and hoping to make good some of the promises she made at the end of 2007 – one of which is to be the first woman to 100m in Constant Weight.