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Christmas Island freediver David Mulheron is pushing to be the world's deepest person – ABC News

Christmas Island freediver David Mulheron is pushing to be the world's deepest person
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For most kids growing up in Australia, holding your breath and swimming from one side of the backyard pool to the other is a rite of passage.
For Australian competitive freediver David Mulheron it is hard to draw a parallel.
Picture a 25-metre swimming pool and imagine swimming eight laps of it on a single breath.
Mr Mulheron has done it.
Most people have taken in a huge gasp of oxygen and tried to outlast a sibling whilst driving through a tunnel.
In that respect Mr Mulheron can outperform most, holding his breath for longer than nine minutes.
To the average person it sounds unbelievable, superhuman.
But these achievements paint a picture of what the 33-year-old Christmas Islander has accomplished in the last decade.
Growing up at One Arm Point Aboriginal Community in Western Australia, spearfishing in shark and crocodile-infested waters was not an uncommon way to earn dinner.
But at eight years of age a close encounter with an apex predator kept Mr Mulheron out of the water for years.
"I got separated from my dad, he was maybe 50 metres away from me, and as I turned around there was a three-metre tiger shark behind me," he said.
"If I'd reached out I would have been able to touch it. But it just kind of slowly cruised past me.
"Enough to scare the life out of me though."
It would take more than 15 years before Mr Mulheron would pick up a speargun again and plunge to the depths of the Indian Ocean.
"I was living in Carnarvon at the time and ended up going out with a few mates," Mr Mulheron said.
"I ended up shooting a fish and getting back to the boat and I didn't get attacked by a shark or see one. So after that I was like 'oh, maybe it's not that bad down there'."
Immersing himself in the raw beauty of the deep blue it once again became his life. He was hooked.
Today, Mr Mulheron holds three national records out of the eight freediving disciplines and has also placed in the top 10 world rankings.
Competitive freediving is a niche sport that has long defied science.
It is comprised of different disciplines that reflect the various ways you can hold your breath underwater — whether that be the deepest, furthest, or longest.
Pushing the limits too far in most sports and you lose. Push your limits too far in freediving and you die.
But for Mr Mulheron the serenity at depth opened another world to him.
"I've never considered myself as someone who pushes the limits. And I wouldn't consider myself to be a super talented athlete," Mr Mulheron said.
"Like with most things it's just hard work and hours and hours of training."
The sport has emerged globally with competitions held annually in unique destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean to name a few.
However, in June this year, restricted by closed borders, Mr Mulheron had to improvise and took to the local swimming pool.
He swam 218 metres without taking a breath, equalling the national record in the dynamic discipline, also breaking the record for dynamic bi-fins.
Mr Mulheron said the record-breaking feat came down to a "good work ethic".
"It's just about being dedicated wholly and solely to what you're doing and what you want to achieve, and if you do, give it 100 per cent," Mr Mulheron said.
The current world record for men's dynamic with fins is 300 metres, and the longest static breath hold is 11 minutes, 35 seconds.
Reaching the pinnacle of competitive freediving has its financial hurdles with most divers having to pay from already depleted pockets to fund their way around the world.
Most of Mr Mulheron's training was holiday-based in the Gili Islands, Indonesia.
He said he was forced to return to the red dust of the Pilbara as a fly-in, fly-out electrician whilst keeping his goals in sight.
"Having limited access to the ocean or even a pool I began a daily routine of waking up at 4:00am, performing a yoga and pranayama breathing routine, work for 12 hours, and then I would do dry training which involved walking and static breath-holding sessions," Mr Mulheron said.
Today he spends nearly every day in the water, but as with every professional athlete it came with sacrifice.
He had to quit his full-time job and book a one-way ticket overseas to pursue his dream.
"I look back and still don't know what I was thinking," Mr Mulheron said.
He spent four months training in Israel and Egypt, learning from the best freediving athletes and instructors in the world.
He said it was the best decision he ever made.
"I guess deep down I had a strong belief in myself and just knew that if I did give it 100 per cent I'd get the results, and yeah, that's all paid off and I am where I am now," he said.
Roughly 1,500 kilometres west of the Australian mainland protrudes the sheer cliffs of Christmas Island that surround Flying Fish Cove — a diver's paradise and Mr Mulheron's home.
He operates his own freediving school on the island whilst training in the world-class conditions.
"Christmas Island offers perfect conditions — year-round great water temperature, clear visibility, and protection from swell and currents," Mr Mulheron said.
"My training location is an 80-metre swim from the jetty which drops to a depth of 40 metres, further out it is unlimited, dropping to 500 metres only 200 metres from the shore."
Realistically, he said he might have to wait until 2023 before he can compete on the global stage again.
"It's just a bit of a waiting game, but in the meantime the plan is to hopefully have a crack at a couple more national records and push a bit deeper," he said.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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