04 Oct 2022

WATCH: Woman who can hold breath for over 6 mins sets new Irish freediving record

A Waterford City native has set a new Irish freediving record. 

Kathleen Macdonald has amassed an impressive ten Irish national records in just 18 months of freediving and now celebrates a number 1 ranking in Ireland for both pool and depth. 

Freediving is an international competitive sport where people dive underwater without any breathing apparatus, meaning the athletes must hold their breath until returning to the surface. 

Kathleen can reportedly hold her breath for 6 minutes and 12 seconds. 

She discovered her talent for the sport during the pandemic while searching for a way to cope with her mother's cancer releapse, and has since been training and competing at an international level. 

Kathleen, who has suffered with mental health issues throughout her life, has accomplished a lot in her life, from hiking to Mount Everest base camp to raising over €5,000 for Pieta House by hiking Kilimanjaro. 

"I think I was always searching for something but I never knew what it was", she said.

Speaking of her personal best of 6 minutes and 12 seconds, Kathleen said, “Those extra seconds after the 6 minutes really matter. I jumped from 2 minutes to 3 minutes to 4 and a half and to 5 and a half in some months, but it is only after you reach the 6th minute you are really pushing your body and mind to its limits, so those 12 seconds are important to me and in the freediving world!" 

While some people think freediving is an extreme sport, she explains that it actually gives the opposite effect. “For me, it is mindfulness using one breath and you return to the surface calm and free, you have emptied your mind of any thoughts, lowered your heart rate to adapt underwater and trusted your body to allow you to go to depths where you wouldn't normally think it's possible to go to.” 

When restrictions lifted, Kathleen flew to Greece to be with her mum and entered two freediving depth competitions in Kalamata. She picked up the first 7 records and dove to an official depth of 51 metres (over 150 feet). 

She also won three more pool records when she flew back to Greece again last week to take part in international freediving competition, AIDA. 

Despite having to return to Ireland due to work commitments - she works as a lawyer in a bank - she continues to train in Dublin in the Markeveizc gym and pool when it was open amid lockdowns. 

Kathleen has been a member there for four years and she now laughs at the fact she signed up for swimming classes just before the pandemic hit and is now Ireland’s champion freediver.

She said, "The irony isn't lost on me but it just shows it's never too late to try something new." 

Kathleen wants to inspire anyone thinking about trying something new, no matter what stage of life, and hopes that freediving will become more accessible and popular in Ireland. 

In 2022 she will be entering ‘The Big Blue’ competition in September in Greece, where some of the top freedivers of the world will be competing. She is also planning to compete in ‘Vertical Blue’ which is held in July every year in the Bahamas and is the mecca of freediving competitions.

You can follow Kathy’s Freediving journey on social media @huntertravel 

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