The Search Has Been Called Off For Missing Free Diver Natalia Molchanova

Rescuers called off a search for decorated free diver Natalia Molchanova on Wednesday, who is now officially presumed dead. The athlete, who had set 41 world records and won 23 world titles, had been missing since Sunday, when she made a recreational dive in the Balearic sea, off the coast of Spain, and didn’t resurface.

Free divers practice their sport without relying on scuba gear or other artificial breathing equipment.

Molchanova’s family has reportedly accepted that she has been presumed dead. Her son Alexey Molchanov, who is also a free diver, touchingly eulogized her, saying to the New York Times, “It seems she’ll stay in the sea. I think she would like that.”

A joint statement on Tuesday from the Molchanova family and AIDA international, the free-diving federation, had more touching words:

“The cause of Natalia’s disappearance is unknown, but she was doing what she loved. Natalia has a passion for freediving that burned so deep inside of her that she dedicated her life to it.”

According to the family, Molchanova was diving to a depth of around 30 to 40 meters (98 to 132 feet), when she was presumably caught up in an underwater current. CNN has a summary of Molchanova’s achievements, including holding her breath underwater for 9 minutes and breaking the dynamic free-diving record last year (where the athlete swims as many pool lengths as possible underwater), which you can see in the above video.

(Via The New York Times / CNN)