Freediver Arnaud Jerald, the lucid intoxication of the depths

It’s the new star of deep freediving. On Tuesday August 9, on the mythical “Blue Hole” of the Bahamas, the Frenchman Arnaud Jerald, 26, broke a new world record by diving to 120 meters, thus adding one meter to the previous record which he had established four days earlier. early, in the same place. His main rival, the Russian Alexey Molchanov (absent from the competition), remained at 118 meters in 2021.

Arnaud Jerald’s discipline is constant weight apnea with bifins. Going down as far as possible using only the strength of the muscles of the legs equipped with flippers, just guided by a vertical cable, such is the challenge. This sport exposes the body to constraints such as a few decades ago, “going underwater more than 40 meters seemed physiologically impossible »recalls Mathieu Coulange, head of the hyperbaric, underwater and maritime medicine department of the southern hospitals of Marseille (AP-HM).

Since then, we have gone much further. There are also other variants of the discipline where divers reach summits, so to speak. In “no limit” apnea, popularized by the film The big Blue by Luc Besson (1988), divers descend with a weighted device attached to a cable and then ascend with a balloon inflated with air. The Austrian Herbert Nitsch thus achieved, in 2012, 253.2 meters deep. But the discipline is considered so dangerous that since 2007, the federations refuse to approve the records.

A self-taught approach

“What is spectacular about Arnaud is that he sets records at an incredible speed without any accident. For such a young freediver this is very unusual”greets Mathieu Coulange. “When I started this discipline, I was told: “you will only be able to know your limits when you have a syncope”, testifies Arnaud Jerald. However, despite my seven world records, I have never suffered from fainting”. Neither in competition nor in training.

The Frenchman is also distinguished by his self-taught approach. “I’m the one who sets up my training protocols, without a coach. This independence allows me to arrive with confidence during a competition. » However, he is accompanied in his training by a nutritionist, a physical trainer for bodybuilding, a physiotherapist to soften the rib cage and the diaphragm and specialists in yoga or meditation techniques to work on breathing. and relaxation. “He is also very attentive to the medical world, in particular to guarantee the safety of his practice”says the doctor.

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