Natalia Molchanova

Natalia Vadimovna Molchanova (Russian: Наталья Вадимовна Молчанова; 8 May 1962 – 2 August 2015) was a Russian champion free diver, multiple world record holder,[2] and the former president of the Russian Free Dive Federation. She has been described as "possibly the world’s greatest freediver".[3]

Natalia Molchanova
Natalia Molchanova at the 2009 Freediving World Championships
Personal information
Born(1962-05-08)8 May 1962
Ufa, Bashkortostan, Soviet Union
Died2 August 2015(2015-08-02) (aged 53)
Ibiza, Spain
ClubKrokodil, Moscow

On 2 August 2015 she went missing giving a private lesson for a Russian,[2] and is presumed to be dead after search efforts were abandoned on 5 August.[4]

Personal life

Molchanova was born in 1962 in Ufa, Bashkortostan, then part of the Soviet Union.[5] Molchanova had a son Alexey and daughter Oksana.[2]


Molchanova was the world's most decorated free diver ever, holding 41 world records at the time of her presumed death and winning 23 gold medals during her lengthy career.[6] At the 2007 Freediving World Championships in Maribor, Slovenia, her winning time in the static discipline was better than the winning male gold medal.[7] In September 2009, she became the first woman to pass 100 meters (328 ft.) diving with constant weight, in a dive to 101 meters (331 ft.) in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.[8] Molchanova was also the first woman to dive on one breath through the Blue Hole arch in Dahab, Egypt.[9] Her record was a dive of 127 metres (417 ft.).[10]

She first trained in swimming, but semi-retired for approximately 20 years after giving birth. She resumed training, aged 40, and shifted from swimming to free diving. Her first free diving competition was the 2003 Russian championships in Moscow, where she set a national record. Her son is also a prominent free diving competitor. Molchanova later worked as a free diving instructor at the Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism.[5]


On 2 August 2015, she was reported missing after giving a private lesson dive near Ibiza, Spain.[2] She went down to a depth of 40 metres (131 ft.), not as deep as normal, but caught by a current, without weights, she is thought to have been taken down. She never came up for air. Initial rescue and recovery efforts were unsuccessful.[2] As of 4 August, search and rescue efforts continued, but she was presumed dead by the search party, including her son Alexey Molchanov.[11][2][12]

The Spanish Civil Code provides that a missing person by shipwreck or amid a dangerous activity shall be declared deceased in absentia three months after a missing report.[13]

World records

FIM91 m21 Sep 2013Kalamata (Greece)
CNF69 m16 Sep 2013Kalamata (Greece)
STAAIDA9:02"28 Jun 2013Belgrade (Serbia)
DYN234 m28 Jun 2013Belgrade (Serbia)
DNF182 m27 Jun 2013Belgrade (Serbia)
CNF68 m25 April 2013Dahab (Egypt)
VWT127 m6 Jun 2012Sharm (Egypt)
CNF66 m8 May 2012Dahab (Egypt)
FIM88 m24 Sep 2011Kalamata (Greece)
CWT101 m22 Sep 2011Kalamata (Greece)
CWT100 m16 April 2011Blue Hole (Bahamas)
VWT125 m16 June 2010Kalamata (Greece)[1]
DYN225 m25 April 2010Moscow (Russia)[1]
CNF62 m3 Dec 2009Blue Hole (Bahamas)[1]
FIM90 m*27 Sep 2009Sharm (Egypt)[1]
CWT101 m*25 Sep 2009Sharm (Egypt)[1]
STA8:23"21 August 2009Aarhus (Denmark)[1]
DNF160 m20 August 2009Aarhus (Denmark)[1]
DYN214 m5 October 2008Lignano (Italy)[1]
FIM85 m27 July 2008Crete (Greece)[1]
CWT95 m25 July 2008Crete (Greece)[1]
CNF60 m12 June 2008Dahab (Egypt)[1]
FIM82 m10 June 2008Dahab (Egypt)[1]
DNF149 m7 July 2007Maribor (Slovenia)[1]
STA8:00"6 July 2007Maribor (Slovenia)[1]
DYN205 m5 July 2007Maribor (Slovenia)[1]
FIM80 m3 June 2006Dahab (Egypt)[1]
DYN200 m23 April 2006Moscow (Russia)[1]
STA7:30"22 April 2006Moscow (Russia)[1]
DNF131 m20 December 2005Tokyo (Japan)[1]
CNF55 m7 November 2005Dahab (Egypt)[1]
FIM78 m5 November 2005Dahab (Egypt)[1]
CWT86 m3 September 2005Villefranche (France)[1]
DNF124 m25 August 2005Renens (Switzerland)[1]
STA7:16"25 August 2005Renens (Switzerland)[1]
DYN178 m25 August 2005Renens (Switzerland)[1]
DYN172 m24 April 2005Moscow (Russia)[1]
DNF108 m23 April 2005Moscow (Russia)[1]
DYN155 m25 April 2004Moscow (Russia)[1][14]
DYN150 m26 May 2003Limassol (Cyprus)[1]
  • Note 1: The two records from 2009, 101 m and 90 m, were repealed by the federation eight months after they had been set, due to the introduction of a new rule, which was then applied retroactively.
  • Note 2: Freediving#Competition defines the various Apnea codes. Record distances are in metres; duration times in minutes and seconds.


  • STA - 9 min. 02 sec.
  • DYN - 234 m
  • DNF - 182 m
  • CWT - 101 m
  • CNF - 69 m
  • FIM - 91 m
  • VWT - 127 m


  • STA = Static apnea. Holding the breath as long as possible.
  • DYN = Dynamic apnea with fins. Diving as far as possible with the use of fins or a monofin.
  • DNF = Dynamic apnea without fins. Diving as far as possible without fins.
  • CWT = Constant weight with fins. Diving as deep as possible with the use of fins or a monofin.
  • CNF = Constant weight without fins. Diving as deep as possible without fins.
  • FIM = Free immersion. Diving as deep as possible by pulling down and up the rope.
  • VWT = Variable weight apnea. Using a sled for descent, pulling back up along a line or swimming up with or without fins.
  • NLT = No-limits apnea. Using a sled for descent, and an inflatable bag for ascent, or any other method or technique.

Personal bests

Time STA 9:02minAIDA
Distance DNF 182mAIDA
Depth CNF 69mAIDA


  1. Natalia Molchanova.
  2. Skolnick, Adam (4 August 2015). "Free Diver Natalia Molchanova Descends for Fun, Then Vanishes". New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  3. "Free-diving: Blue hole, black hole: A story of hubris and obsession". The Economist. 27 February 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  4. espnW news
  5. Oksana Gredzheva. Чемпионка мира-2005 по фридайвингу Наталья МОЛЧАНОВА. (interview in Russian)
  6. "Natalia Molchanova, Freediving Champion, Missing and Feared Dead". NBC News. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  7. "Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean". The Independent. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  8. "New World Record – Molchanova CWT 101m". Deeper Blue. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  9. "Natalia Molchanova: Freewater diving champion missing presumed dead following practice session in Ibiza". Mirror. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  10. The Daily Telegraph, Friday 9 October 2015, Obituary [paper only], p.33
  11. "Champion diver is missing".
  12. Wilkinson, Alec, The Disappearance of the World’s Greatest Free Diver, New Yorker, August 8, 2015
  13. Spanish Civil Code
  14. McKie, N (2004). "Freediving in cyberspace". Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 34: 101–3. Retrieved 5 October 2013.

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