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Hidden depths

Ning Jingyu isn't your typical record-breaking freediver

By CHEN XUE | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-10 07:14
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Chinese freediver Ning Jingyu sets a national record in women's Constant Weight Freediving at the 2024 CMAS World Cup in the Philippines in May, reaching a depth of 101 meters. Her next goal is to challenge the Asian record, which is 106 meters and currently held by Japanese athlete Hanako Hirose. Provided to CHINA DAILY

Ning Jingyu had no intention of becoming a competitive freediver when she first signed up for a beginner's class in July 2019. She was simply drawn to the images of people diving with whales and wanted similar pictures of her own.

However, five years later, on May 14, Ning set a national record in women's CWT (Constant Weight Freediving) at the 2024 CMAS World Cup in the Philippines, reaching a depth of 101 meters.

Freediving is a sport that requires divers to hold their breath while either swimming horizontally as far as possible (in pool competitions) or descending as deep as possible (in depth competitions).

Traditionally, at 40 and a mother of a 9-year-old, Ning might have been considered past the prime age for sports, but she doesn't see age as a barrier in freediving. She explained that freediving is best performed with a low heart rate, because that means the body isn't consuming too much oxygen — a crucial factor when you have only one breath to rely on.

"At 40, I find it easier to maintain a calm state of mind," Ning said. "My slower metabolism also means my body needs less oxygen to function compared to younger athletes."

Ning didn't always possess this zen outlook. When she first took up freediving, she was managing her banquet planning business, a stressful and demanding job that required long hours, late nights, and meticulous attention to detail.

"I was always easily agitated," she recalled.

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