Şahika Ercümen / World Record Holder Free-diver

For me life began not when I took my first breath, but when I held it for the first time

For me life began not when I took my first breath, but when I held it for the first time. This is my most important sentence concerning life… As a child, I could not even leave the house, let alone play sports. I had asthma and this was preventing me from even breathing comfortably. My mother used to wait by my side until the early hours and my doctor visits were never far away. However, when I went to swim in the sea in the summer I used to feel great.

I won a place at the Anatolian High School after Primary School. During the preparatory year when we were learning a foreign language we went to visit a water sports club together with our English teacher Meral Yerdelen. The sun beams which lightly touched the sea at sunset captivated me like jewels. Mehmet Günaydın and Hakan Şanlı, who were coaches at the Çanakkale Underwater Sports Club said that my physical structure was extremely suited to underwater sports and that I should try this out. I, on the other hand, could not keep myself from watching the enchanting beauty of the sea. They asked me to hold my breath and go as far as I could under water. I realised that I was in magical world from the moment I put my head under water. It was as if I was breathing; it was as if I had gained certain super powers on entering the water.


That is when everything began… Every time I dived into the water and got back out again I was being reborn. While my team mates were training for 2 hours, the obstinacy brought about by lack of sporting activity for years was causing me to train for 6 hours, and I was being regenerated after every training session. I had been selected for the national team in the first years after starting to play sports, but my objectives were much higher. It’s as if certain things had been engraved on our soul. Who knows why, but I had always wanted to go down the deepest since my childhood. During moments when I could not eat due to my illness I would ask our neighbour, dear uncle Orhan, to draw me pictures of mermaids and I would allow my grandmother to feed me a few mouthfuls while looking at these in admiration. Tales of mermaids had always had a great impact on me. My grandfather and my uncle had an interest in encyclopaedias, and there were special encyclopaedias related to the sea at home. The sections on whales and dolphins in these encyclopaedias are missing – because I used to slyly rip them out of there, as I wanted to carry those pages around with me all the timeJ. When I look back now, I can feel that I had a great passion even in those years. When breaking world records, what I was actually doing was just going after my passion…

We had wanted our first world record to be out of the ordinary, and we decided to try the World Under Ice Diving Record, which is one of the most difficult diving categories in the world.

The world record was 70 meters for women and 100 meters for men. However, we wanted to enter the Guinness Book of Records by beating both. The area underneath ice is very cold. You realise the meaning of the term, “as cold as ice” once more when you are there. As well as this, the biggest difficulty under the ice is that there is a 30 cm layer of ice above you, and you only have one point of exit. I entered a serious period of training with an awareness of this. I had neared 100 meters during my training sessions, but 2 weeks before my dive, a German male diver increased the record from 100 meters to 108 meters. This is a big difference for diving under ice. I have to admit I was a little shaken, but despite all of the difficulties, I motivated myself instead of becoming demoralised. I really wanted this and I was going to dive to do my best on that day. There were a lot of reasons for creating excuses and giving up, but I realised what was really required to become a champion there. I was either going to put in my best effort and strive courageously, or I was going to go back home.

And of course, I chose to do my very best, to my last drop of breath. However, putting this into practice is not as easy as putting it into words. I even saw how much I wanted this in my dreams, and I was confronting my fears. Difficulties and fears are there to be overcome and to carry me to a higher plain. I realised that when I accepted them and derived pleasure from the work I did, my performance was better too. Then I thought about my childhood – about the days I could not breathe… If I am able to breathe now, then I have the strength to be able to do everything. I told myself to go and win! And this is how my story began…

In 2011, Austria dip in the Artic Ocean, we dove the distance of 110 meters horizantal diving under the ice and we were able to break the world record and won the right to enter Guiness Book of Records.

Living with passion and touching different lives honours my life. And I am continuing to discover my best through the magic of this.

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