FORMENTERA, Spain, Aug. 4 (UPI) — World record-breaking free dive champion Natalia Molchanova never resurfaced Sunday during a dive off the coast of Spain’s Formentera island and is feared dead, her family said.
Molchanova, 53, was diving with a group of three other divers for fun when she disappeared during what would have a dive of a modest depth for her — about 98 to 131 feet. Private and coast guard searchers scoured the area for the Russian diver for two days, but her son, Alexey, said Tuesday she is not expected to be found alive.
International diving federation AIDA issued a joint statement with Molchanova’s family Tuesday.
“The cause of Natalia’s disappearance is unknown, but she was doing what she loved,”the statement said. “Natalia has a passion for freediving that burned so deep inside of her that she dedicated her life to it.”
Molchanova is widely regarded as the greatest free diver in history, The New York Times reported, holding 41 world records and winning 23 world championships. She could hold her breath for nine minutes and dive up to a depth of 331 feet.
“She was an inspiration to all freedivers and despite being one of the fiercest competitors in the world, she was always calm and relaxed during competitions,” the AIDA statement said.
“The world has lost its greatest free diver,” said Will Trubridge, a 15-time world-record holder in the sport. “I don’t think anybody would dispute that.”
By late Tuesday, Alexey said he accepted the idea his mother’s body may never be found.
“It seems she’ll stay in the sea,” he said. “I think she would like that.”
Molchanova is also mother to Oksana.