MH: A month or so before your world record dive in Constant Weight, word went around that you were going to challenge this record. Today you hold not only Constant Weight, but two other world records in depth disciplines. What sort of personal bests had you achieved when you believed the titles to be within your grasp, and what made you think that you could close the distance
SC: I don't remember saying I was going to challenge the womens' world records - the British records were always my main focus, with the world records seeming an unattainable target.
Even last summer, when I set a UK record with a 70m Constant Weight dive, I was nearly 20m away from the equivalent world record.
It was only really two weeks before the Triple Depth competition in Dahab, where I set the records, that it seemed a possibility.
Even then, it was the result of a mistake.
I was attempting a training dive to what I thought was 73m, and a miscalculation of the rope length put the bottom plate at 83m instead. After that I progressed in training, up to 89m, which was already 1m more than the world record.
In Free Immersion I had reached 75m, and in Constant Weight No Fins, 52m. However, my last series of training dives were not good, and I missed my targets in all three - I was having problems with the psychology of the task ahead of me.
So I stopped the training two days before the competition and put everything into perspective. Just deal with one record at a time, and understand that each is attainable.

MH: You obviously have a strong self-belief system. What do you put this down to
SC: I discussed this with a lot of the other top freedivers at the Championships, to see what set me aside from other women freedivers.
My mental strength was frequently mentioned. For the past four or five years I have been teaching Kundalini yoga, and the meditation practice has a lot to do with this. It enables me to focus 100% on the dive ahead, even though I have an awareness of what is going on around me. I visualise each dive beforehand, so that I know what to expect.

MH: You seem to have gone from one success to another, in rapid succession. I know you suffered from hepatitis in 2006, but have there been any other low points since then
SC: I was actually quite sick during 2007 as well, with a chronic condition that I suffer from. It comes and goes, and is stress-related.
I started losing weight just after setting my first round of UK records in June, and was in
a fairly weak condition for the competitions I had entered in July.
Shortly after that, I had to go into hospital for treatment. So my training schedule had to be planned around this, leaving plenty of time for rest and making adjustments to my diet.
Everything is under control now, although I still need medication and nutritional supplements.
MH: Presumably your natural abilities have been fortified with some rigorous training. How does this affect your personal and work life
SC: I wouldnt say I train rigorously. When I tell people I have only been freediving for less than a year, there is always a look of astonishment on their faces.
I probably had three or four months out of the water during that time as well!
I live in Dahab, so this means I can schedule my training sessions at a pace to suit my lifestyle. I never do more than one dive per day, or four dives a week. Generally its two days on, one day off. I put a lot of performance gains down to sufficient rest.
As for relationships, I am single and without children, so it isnt as if I have abandoned a family to go and live with dolphins!
I do see less of my friends in the run-up to competitions, however. I work as a freelance PR consultant, currently for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and have managed to co-ordinate this with my freediving pursuits.

MH: A lot of us in the UK struggle to find deep water to train in, yet you have this on your doorstep in Dahab. If you had to move back to the UK, how would you modify your training
SC: Id buy a thicker wetsuit! Moving back to the UK simply isnt an option for me. I want to spend the next two years focusing on depth freediving, with some specific goals in mind.
I need to have deepwater facilities nearby - deeper than my current records, obviously.
Of course, I do need to spend some time training and competing in pool disciplines (static and dynamic apnea) if I am to be considered for the 2008 World Championship team event. I may do some of this in the UK.

MH: How do your family view your involvement in freediving
SC: They think Im completely bonkers! They do have concerns, but these have diminished as I have become more proficient. They are incredibly proud of my achievements.

MH: Your 90m Constant Weight dive took 3min 46sec, yet your static breath-hold has been quoted by The Times to be 4min 30sec. Thats a very close ratio - most freedivers have more of a 1:2 ratio, so a dive of nearly 4 minutes would yield a 7-8 minute static. Did The Times make a mistake
SC: No, although its slightly out-of-date - I have since managed a breath-hold of 5min 4sec.
Psychologically, I havent yet developed the techniques to overcome the discomfort of performing static breath-holds. When I experienced a black-out at the World Championships, I experienced symptoms just beforehand that made me realise that I have been nowhere near that level in static apnea.
So I have the capability to do more.

MH: I understand that a team of Italian physiologists are intending to find out what makes you tick. Any idea what they are going to do to you
SC: I had heart and lung monitoring at the World Championships, and further to this, I will be given a portable ECG monitor to wear on one of my deep dives. I will also have my sleep and meditation patterns monitored with this. Nothing out of the ordinary has been found so far - the vital capacity of my lungs is just 3.7 litres, which is average. [The results will be available by the time LIDS takes place].

MH: Great Britain has had mixed fortunes in team events over the past few years. What needs to be done to remedy this, and how do you hope to help
SC: In fairness, I dont know the British freedivers that well, though some of the male contenders are looking strong for this year.
My perception at the Saltfree Double-Dip UK Championship last year was that a lot of freediving education has been passed down with little influence from outside the UK, and with no coaching from top-level freedivers.
I would very much like to spend time coaching the UK Womens team, to strengthen their abilities.

MH: Has the British Freediving Association given you the support you expected and, if not, what would you have asked it to do differently
SC: A lot of people have been surprised that the BFA has not provided me with any financial support.
On the other hand, I am aware that with the membership numbers and annual subscription fee, there are simply not the funds available.
The Swiss national freediving association has worked around this problem by amalgamating with a larger scuba-diving body, thereby drawing funds from a much larger base. Swiss freediving athletes at the 2007 World Championships all had their flights paid for. Perhaps this is something the BFA should look into.
I also hope that my own media profile will have a knock-on effect that will benefit UK freediving, by improving sponsorship opportunities for the BFA.

MH: Do you have any heroes or role models, either in freediving or outside of it
SC: There are a lot of top freedivers I respect - Natalia Molchanova, Herbert Nitsch, Dave Mullins and Will Trubridge, for example.
Outside of freediving, just people in general who make great achievements for reasons other than their own standing, and which make a difference. For instance, the work I am currently doing with the Blue Project is all about raising awareness of global climate change, something I feel quite strongly about.

MH: Aside from your mental approach, which one area of training has made the greatest improvement with your depths
SC: Rest.

MH: Within the space of just a few days, you went from world-record holder to world-record defender. How did that feel
SC: I accepted that I may be holding the World Records for just a few days, so I didnt feel that I was in a defending role.
In fact, at 88m in Constant Weight, I was targeting a depth shallower than my world record, so I couldnt reset it. This was in the hope that Natalia would take back hers, and keep up public interest in the contest for it.

MH: You could have employed different tactics in the Constant Weight World Championships in Sharm, and walked away with two gold records instead of one. What made you aim for such a deep depth in No Fins, and would a more experienced Sara Campbell have made the same decision
SC: My 90m Constant Weight world record was a difficult dive, so an 88m dive was not likely to be significantly easier. By contrast, my 56m Constant Weight No Fins world record was comparatively easy, so adding another 4m seemed a reasonable increase. Although
I experienced a black-out on this dive, I think it was just bad luck, and that I am capable of that depth.

MH: This was your first-ever black-out. Was there any criticism from fellow athletes about it
SC: No. I was almost congratulated as now being a real freediver. Some of them were disappointed - more so than I was!
I left the Championships with a gold medal and my three world freediving records intact. To ask for more would have been greedy.

MH: Whatever youre being served in a diner, we want what youre having! What is it exactly
SC: Organic brown rice, which I have to import at great cost! Fruit, pulses, nuts, pasta, tuna, chicken, rare steak, steamed vegetables and lots of water. I avoid alcohol, chocolate, caffeine and dairy products. The brown rice I try to include with every meal.

MH: If you were coaching newcomers to achieve what you have, what would be your approach
SC: They would need to accept major lifestyle changes - such as moving to somewhere like Dahab. Be prepared to do most training actually in the water, but not to the extent that it becomes stressful. It should always be fun and enjoyable.

Divernet Divernet

Moved to Dahab on whim after weeks holiday
MAY 2006
First freediving course with Freedive Dahab
Reached 40m, applied for British team. Diagnosed with hepatitis A
MARCH 2007
Returned to freediving
APRIL 2007
First competition, Dahab: National record,
No Fins (30m)
JUNE 2007
National Record Attempts, Dahab: National records in Constant Weight, (58m, 62m, 65m) and Free Immersion (58m, 62m)
JULY 2007
City of Peace Trophy, Sharm el Sheikh: National records in Constant Weight (70m) and No Fins (40m). Salt Free British Championships, Chepstow: Competition overall winner, women and men
Triple Depth, Dahab: World records in Free Immersion, (81m); Constant Weight (90m); and No Fins (56m)
World Championships, Sharm el Sheikh: Gold medallist, Constant Weight (88m)