DUBAI, 19th March 2017: Emiratis proved their superiority in the 11th Fazza Championship for Freediving organized and supervised by the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Centre at Hamdan Sports Complex in Ruwayyah on Saturday 18th March in the Juniors, Professional and Amateurs’ categories while Goran Colak dethroned defending champion Branko Petrovic to emerge champion in the Open (Professionals Category) event for the fourth time in a spectacular finale to the largest tournament of its kind and one of the most challenging heritage sports.
Nasser Obaid Rizzi Al Shamsi upset his rivals from the Amateurs Category (for locals and GCC participants) by holding his breath for a staggering 6:06.42 minutes, a massive improvement from his qualifying time of 4:42.85. Kuwait’s Hassan Ali Hassan took second position clocking 5:58.93 pushing the top qualifier Oman’s Ibrahim Sulaitani (5:32.78) into third place.
Saif Al Zarouni claimed first place in the Juniors category for Emiratis holding his breath for 2:11.12 minutes. Abdul Rahman Jaber Al Marzouki took second place clocking 1:55.26 while Salem Al Shamsi came third in 1:43.61.
However, attention turned towards the Open (Professionals Category) class where world champion divers competed, after Goran Colak set an incredible time of 10:19.30 minutes with a lung-breaking performance. All eyes were on three-time champion of the Fazza Championship for Freediving Branko Petrovic who was the last to dive into the pool. However, Petrovic stopped the clock at 9:34.46 to finish in third position while Poland’s Mateusz Jan Malina took second place having clocked 9:56.13 in a stunning reversal of results to complete an evening full of suspense and drama in the pool.
Nasser Obaid Al Rizzi was proud to represent UAE and bring glory to the nation by winning the championship for the fourth time in first place.
“I was forced to skip the competition last year because of my association with the sport of falconry. Last year, Omanis swept the podium and there were five qualifiers in the finals this year. It was a tough competition but my training for one and half months reaped results as I won my seventh title in the Fazza Championship,” said Al Rizzi who is a three-time winner in first place and three time winner in second place since he started competing in the championship back in 2009.
The 36-year-old falconer is a self-taught diver with steely resolve having competed with professionals when he made his international debut.
“There is a great improvement in the standard of competition. I learnt techniques of holding my breath on my own. I don’t think of anything when I am under the water because if I don’t relax, my heart will beat faster and it will burn oxygen,” said Al Rizzi who waited anxiously till the final result came before being declared the winner.
Having stunned Serbian Branko Petrovic in the qualifying round, Goran Colak was the favourite to win the title but the manner in which he achieved it was amazing.
Asked whether he was tired after raising the Fazza Championship for Freediving to a new level with his time of 10:19.30, Goran said: “I feel fine. I was nervous because of this competition for the last couple of months, especially yesterday and today before it started. I feel relieved because I did what I wanted to do. I’m not tired at all.”
A multiple world record holder and winner of 11 world championship titles, 33-year-old Goran explained that changing his training regime after taking a six-month sabbatical was the reason for his success.
“I changed everything. I lost like 10 kilos which helps for this discipline. I changed the regime of my training with some fasting and different kind of stuff. But I was thinking whether it might work and it did work,” said Goran whose previous best in the Fazza Championship for Freediving was 9:14 last year but amazingly broke the 10-second barrier twice this year with spectacular ease.
“My only goal was to go 10 plus and I did that and I’m happy. That was it. I couldn’t do more. I could have pushed it for a second or two but you need to exit safe. If you get disqualified you get nothing, you become last,” said Goran who plays chess as a hobby when he is not in the water.
Dubai has produced one of the greatest comebacks for a champion diver who suffered a kidney ailment last year.
“I won two silver medals at the world championships last year. But I was sick and had some problems with my kidneys and basically I took six months off. The win in Dubai was well deserved I guess and hopefully I will continue in the sport for five more years,” said Goran who said the heritage sport of Freediving is physically not that difficult but mentally the hardest one.
“When you are moving, time goes fast. If you are doing depth, you can split your dives into free falls and going up in segments. Holding ropes once you perfect grip and find perfect depth it’s reasonably fine. But this is extreme static,” said Goran explaining the ratio of difficulty as compared to other traditional diving disciplines.
Guinness World record holder Branko Petrovic who vowed to bounce back in the final, conceded it was not his day.
“As always this was an amazing championship. We can see the level of competitors is definitely increasing especially in the GCC category. I’m proud of all my students who broke records. I’m very happy for this. This was not my day,” said Branko who failed to go past 10 minutes.
On the other hand Jan Malina of Poland has made great strides over the years to win second place in the Fazza Championship for Freediving in his third attempt.
“The competition is great but I’m improving year after year. I’ve been preparing for this event since the World Championship in June,” said the Polish world champion.
HE Hamad Al Rahoumi, head of the tournament organizing committee, said there are many moments of suspense during the championship which has evolved into a world-class event going by the record times and the emergence of new champions.
“The improvement in timings in the Amateur and Junior categories were remarkable doubling our responsibility to ensure transparency in the competition. A review of video especially in the Open class where professional divers compete reveals a good example of world champion Branko Petrovic clutches onto the rope correctly under water,” he said.
Ms. Suad Ibrahim Darwish, Director of Championships at HHC, said one of the significant benefits of this tournaments was the increase in the number of participants specifically from the UAE and GCC countries.
“There were many new faces including from Saudi Arabia who achieved advanced positions. It is a great pleasure to see an Emirati winning first place which augurs well for the sport in the country. It is a tournament where you could see world champions performing, providing great competition and excitement to fans,” she said.
Sultan Al Zarouni, the father of 14-year-old Saif who won the Junior category, was visibly proud of his son’s feat.
“He has been training for this championship since last year doing regular exercise and going to the gym. He works hard to keep his weight down and follows a strict training schedule because of his desire to be a successful swimmer and follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle,” said Sultan whose brother Marwan is also a qualified diving master.
Omani Ibrahim Sulaitani said he was encouraged by his friends to take part in the Fazza Championship for Freediving and achieved success by getting third place.