Three minutes and 38 seconds. This is the time it took Alessia Zecchini to descend to a depth of 109 metres and thus set a new world record for freediving with two fins in constant buoyancy. The scene of this extraordinary feat was the waters of Moalboal, in the Philippines. (Here all our posts about Seiko).
A record born of disappointment
Here, on 29 March, the Roman athlete wrote a page destined to remain engraved in the history of this discipline. And to think that it all started with a bitter disappointment. ‘I had been chasing this record since last year,’ says Alessia Zecchini, ‘I had prepared myself to beat it. But I arrived in Kas, Turkey, where the competitions were taking place, too tired and the goal fell through. On the strength of that experience, this year I decided to change my approach and arrive more rested and, above all, with the intention of enjoying every moment of the dive. A dedication marked by several important moments. Already two days before setting the new record, the Roman freediver had managed to break the record by touching -107 metres. It was 27 March, and on that occasion Alessia Zecchini wrote on her IG profile: ‘Today I achieved the dive I have always dreamed of. I abandoned myself to the sea, without anxieties and worries, without thinking about the past. Enjoying and loving every moment like never before’. Just 48 hours after the extraordinary new record accompanied by three words: happiness, gratitude and freedom.
Alessia Zecchini: a record-breaking palmares
To date, she has collected 17 gold medals in six different disciplines, 33 medals and 36 world records. Alessia Zecchini’s career says a lot about her relationship with the sea. This year, moreover, the Italian freediver has become a Seiko friend of the brand. “I am glad to be part of the Seiko family,” she says. “This encounter enhances the passion for depth linked to the quest for performance. It is fascinating to think that it was the Seiko Manufacture that created the first Japanese diver’s watch, in 1965, and it is an honour to wear models that are the fruit of work aimed at constantly improving diver’s watch technologies. With Seiko on my wrist, I feel stimulated to achieve ever more challenging goals,” she adds.
Her compelling story began at 10
Her compelling story began at 10 when she started swimming lessons. From then on she could no longer do without the water. The following year, she discovered the thrill of free diving by reaching a depth of 25 metres. A sport that soon became his life too. Alessia Zecchini has climbed the abysses, reaching increasingly dizzying heights. In 2013, at the World Championships in Kazan, she obtained her first depth record, reaching a depth of 81 metres, which became 93 when she freedived in constant buoyancy with a monofin in Ischia in 2016. The following year,in the Bahamas, she broke the 100-metre wall. On Long Island, participating in Vertical Blue, she descended to 104 metres under the sea. In 2018 Alessia reached -105 metres and then -107 metres again at the Nirvana Oceanquest Freediving Competition. No later than a year ago on Long Island, she collected three more world records: -74 metres in constant buoyancy without equipment; -101 metres in free immersion; and -115 metres in constant buoyancy with a monofin. But speaking of competitiveness is reductive, at least in the case of Alessia Zecchini. Apnoea is only a means of fully and absolutely living one’s relationship with the sea. It is a philosophy of life, as the athlete tells us in this interview.
When did you realize that freediving would play a key role in your life?
I first became acquainted with this sport at the age of 13 when I had the opportunity to enrol in a freediving course for the first time. In eighth grade, I wrote an essay in which I already declared that freediving was my life’s dream and that I would become famous in this discipline. However, I had to wait until I was 18 before I could start competing competitively. It was four long years of waiting.
Is there a champion, an athlete, or a particular figure in the sport that you are inspired by?
My inspiration was Natalia Molchanova, the strongest freediver ever. She held records in all disciplines.
Of all records you have achieved, is there one to which you feel most attached?
The best memory remains the two silver medals at the Italian championships. I had just turned 18. It was my first real important victory in this sport. It was the best reward for the four years of waiting before I could take part in a competition. Finally the dream came true.
You’ve collected 35 medals, 17 of which are golden. What gives you more satisfaction between winning a medal and setting a new record?
Both give unique satisfaction and joy. In a world championship you are also running for your country and every victory always has a special flavour. It makes you proud. Setting a record means testing yourself and your limits.
Of all the records you have set, which ones are still unbeaten?
The 101 metres achieved in free diving and the 74 metres in breaststroke.
How does the perception of time change when diving?
Everything slows down and dilates. It is like entering a new space-time dimension. Although the maximum duration, between descent and ascent, never exceeds a handful of minutes, you have the feeling that an eternity has passed. Of course the effort is to maintain a high level of concentration at all times, but freediving is also a way of getting to know oneself and control your emotions.
Apnoea is a discipline that resembles mountaineering in some ways. Both have two moments, the descent and the ascent. In your opinion, which is the most demanding?
On a physical and muscular level certainly the second phase. The descent only implies a physical effort in the first section, then, having reached 40 metres, you let yourself fall into the void, being very careful to compensate with your ears.
Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 should celebrate the debut of freediving as an Olympic discipline. Another dream coming true?
I hope so. Participating in the Olympics is every athlete’s dream and mine too.
What is the most beautiful sea or the one that has given you the strongest emotions?
Definitely diving in the Red Sea and the Maldives was a truly unique experience on an emotional level. Observing the beauty, variety and colours of the life that lies beneath its surface gives me unique feelings The sea is everything to me.