“惊人的”奉献 - 2024年05月15日

'Breath-taking' dedication

Jin Ming competes in the 2023 China Freediving Championships in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. 

Jin Ming, a freediver from Shanghai, set a new world record by swimming 311 meters underwater on a single breath, highlighting his dedication and China's growing prominence in the sport.

How far can someone swim underwater with just a single breath? For Jin Ming from Shanghai, that distance extends to an impressive 311 meters.

The 31-year-old freediver recently achieved a remarkable feat by setting a new world record in DYN (Dynamic Apnea with Fins) at the Ultimate Freediving Challenge in Singapore on May 4. This accomplishment of 311 meters surpassed the previous record of 301 meters, held by French athlete Guillaume Bourdila two years earlier.

In the realm of freediving, divers rely solely on their lung capacity rather than any scuba equipment. Competitive freediving encompasses two primary categories: "depth" competitions, which involve descending as deep as possible in open water on a single breath, and "pool" competitions, which require athletes to hold their breath underwater while remaining stationary or swimming horizontally.

Having competed in both categories, Jin prefers DYN, which falls under the pool category. He considers DYN to be the fastest discipline among all freediving events, providing a sense of water flow and speed.

"It's like piloting a submarine or living out The Fast and the Furious beneath the surface," he said.

In addition to his recent DYN achievement, Jin has a history of making significant strides in the sport. He holds an impressive tally of 46 Chinese national records and 22 Asian records in freediving, establishing himself as the highest-ranking Asian athlete in pool competitions.

"Effort, perseverance, and talent are Jin's defining traits, but it's his relentless effort that truly sets him apart. When given a task that requires 100 percent, he always puts in 120 percent to complete it," said Jin's coach Zhao Lei, also known as Enzo Zhao, founder of One Freedive Club in Beijing.

Unlike many other sports where athletes start training at a young age, freediving is relatively new, especially in China, which is why Jin didn't kick off his career as a professional athlete until his 20s. In 2018, during the fourth year of running his tech startup, he stumbled upon the 1988 French film The Big Blue. At that time, he was struggling with immense work pressures and was captivated by the tranquillity and serenity of the ocean depicted in the film, which prompted him to explore freediving.

"Freediving proved to be an excellent stress reliever," Jin said. "Immersing yourself underwater for extended periods while holding your breath puts you in a state of flow. It also allows you to engage in meditation and relaxation techniques that you can't normally practice on land."

According to Jin, the key to success in freediving lies in one's ability to handle pressure. Among mental, cognitive, and physical skills, freediving requires more mental strength than most other sports. Keeping calm underwater also leads to a lower heart rate and reduces oxygen consumption.

After a year of consistent training, Jin's performance could rival that of professional athletes. So, in 2019, Zhao encouraged him to compete in international events.

But Jin wasn't just competing for himself. "Back then, Japan held most of the freediving records in Asia. At that moment, a spark ignited within me — a sense of national duty, aspiring to propel China to the forefront of Asian freediving," he said.

From late 2019 to mid-2021, Jin dedicated 18 months to achieving this objective, training and participating in competitions, setting three Asian records in the process.

He then aimed even higher: to elevate China to the pinnacle of global freediving.

At the 30th AIDA Pool World Championship in 2023, Jin secured China's first gold medal in the DYN event, positioning China alongside traditional freediving powerhouses like France, Italy, Russia, Poland, and Croatia.

Jin's achievements have left the international freediving community in awe, leading them to coin his training and competitive tactics as the "China Style", diverging from the conventional methods employed by Western athletes.

Explaining his approach, Jin pointed out that since Chinese athletes are not as proficient in breath-holding as some Western counterparts who can endure up to 10 minutes underwater — Jin's national record for Static Apnea (STA) is 8 minutes and 56 seconds — they prioritize speed to cover more distance in less time.

"Our pace surpasses that of most Western freedivers. I maintain an underwater speed of approximately 1.3 meters per second, exceeding the typical one-meter-per-second pace of top athletes from other countries," said Jin.

"Also, our muscle training doesn't emphasize bulking up, but rather focuses on developing lean, highly efficient muscles with strong explosive power and a high lactate threshold for endurance," he explained.

Not being a full-time athlete means Jin must juggle work and freediving training, while also facing the same challenges as professional athletes, including fluctuating performances and self-doubt.

Jin Ming competes in the 2023 China Freediving Championships in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. 

Yet, he never regrets his decision. Starting his freediving career in his 20s means he made the choice independently, unlike many young athletes who might have been influenced by their parents.

"I chose to pursue competitive freediving as an adult, which adds a deeper significance to my decision," he said. "I believe it's important for people to constantly challenge themselves and embrace competition. Settling into a comfort zone too early might cause one to miss out on many possibilities in life."

While Jin competes in freediving, he also stresses that freediving skills — even at a beginner level — can be crucial lifesaving abilities. He highlighted their usefulness in various emergencies, such as water accidents, escaping fires while holding one's breath, or avoiding inhaling harmful gases in situations like being stuck in an elevator, near landfill sites, or behind car exhausts.

Transitioning from a novice freediver to a world-class champion, Jin also witnessed the surging popularity of this niche sport among China's youth. He notes a significant increase in certified freedivers in China, rising from around 80,000 to over 600,000 in the past five years. Many young individuals also embrace freediving as a means of relieving stress or as a lifestyle choice for exploring the world and the ocean.

The 2025 World Games, scheduled to be held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan province, will also feature freediving in its athletic program for the very first time.

"China is increasingly recognizing the value of freediving as a sport. Initiatives such as athlete rating standards and additional points for college entrance exams are being implemented. Youth training systems, including sports schools for teenagers, are also starting to recruit," Jin observed.

As a leading figure in Chinese freediving, Jin has established his own freediving community, the Huangpu Diving Academy in Shanghai. The name pays homage to the esteemed Whampoa (Huangpu) Military Academy in China's modern history.

The community emphasizes core values of "passion, competition, nationality, and cultural richness". It currently has 76 active athletes and has consistently dominated the national freediving championships from 2021 to 2023. Jin is also involved in teaching and mentoring students himself.

"My dedication has always revolved around pushing the boundaries of Chinese freediving," he said.

Whether it's for personal improvement or promoting the sport, Jin remains committed to nurturing and preserving the flame that was ignited within him six years ago.

"I aspire for the fire in my heart to keep burning brightly, regardless of age," he said.

Source: China Daily




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