Freediving is an outrageous sport. It really is. It’s utterly beyond my wildest imagination of things possible within the realm of the human body. Who would have ever guessed that we were capable of being pushed to such extremes?
For those of you who are perhaps unfamiliar with the sport, the term “freediving” refers to a specific set of underwater activities or, more commonly, competitive breath-hold diving and apnea. The latter (which can be completed with or without fins) refers to divers traveling horizontally underwater under their own power and without any sort of equipage aid. Nutty, right?! Latinos have never featured prominently in the freediving world – we can recall legendary Cuban freediver Francisco “Pipín” Ferreras by name – which makes the current exploits of 23-year-old Pereira, Colombia native Sofía Gómez Uribe that much more exciting.
Gómez’s objective for the new year? Become no. 1 in the AIDA World Rankings. It’s a challenge that’s anything but out of reach for the incredible young phenom; despite starting her freediving career a mere four years ago, she has already experienced unprecedented success on national and international levels, shooting up to no. 4 in world rankings by the end of 2015.
According to her website, Gómez began practicing aquatic sports (primarily synchronized and fin swimming) when she was ten years old. Antioqueña de corazón after making the move to Medellín five years ago, her first foray into freediving happened by chance: a make-or-break fin swimming practice that luckily ended with a resounding, “Wow, Sofía is a total badass and needs to be practicing breath-hold diving.”
Nelson Zapata – Gómez’s fin swimming coach at the time – had just finished teaching a variety of breathing techniques. So as any inquisitive coach might do, he proceeded to ask Gómez and her peers to give deep distance diving a chance. Who can complete the maximum distance dive possible? That day it was Gómez, no surprises there. She reached a whopping 100 meters, signaling her tremendous talent and natural capacity for the sport. And that was just the beginning.
In 2015 alone, Gómez came in fourth overall at Vertical Blue (the “Wimbledon of freediving”), achieving two South American records: 51 meters in constant weight without fins, arguably the most challenging event, and 70 meters in free immersion. She also broke three national records (plus 72 meters in constant weight with fins). Gómez then reached new heights (or depths, depending on how you see it) with a second-place finish at the Big Blue competition held in La Paz, Baja California, Mexico in October, crushing her previous records with a first-place regional record of 55 meters in constant weight without fins, and a second-place regional record of 81 meters constant weight with fins, among others. (Check out a very full and long list of her achievements here).
What she does is stunning and so very captivating. Just watch for yourselves.
In an interview with BBC Deportes, Gómez said that the most beautiful thing about the sport is that “you explore things that very few people can. It’s a sense of great peace and tranquility, feeling the water pass through your body. When you go down you do it alone. It’s just you and your capabilities.”
“(Wo)man is always looking to do things that are unconventional, that not everyone can do. That is what I like most about the sport, that I’m always breaking my own limits,” Gómez went on. Sounds about right – breaking limits, records, opponents’ hopes and dreams. You name it, Gómez has most likely done it (either that or she’s well on her way).
Next up for the colombiana: Vertical Blue 2016 in April, where she’ll look to best her fourth-place finish from last year and inch one step closer to the title of world’s no. 1. We’ll be the first to advise you to jump on the Sofía Gómez Uribe bandwagon with us while it’s still early in the game. This young pioneer is going places.