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NZ's world record freediving champ terrified of Covid

New Zealand freediver William Trubridge admits he's terrified of getting Covid-19 as the disease could end his incredible career.

William Trubridge needs to get into a meditative state as a freediver. Photo: Photosport

Trubridge is one of the world's outstanding freedivers, setting numerous world records and his lungs are everything.

The 40-year-old is in the Bahamas with his family where he trains for several months of the year.

Trubridge is based on Long Island, which recorded its first case of Covid-19 on 30th August.

"We've just got 12 cases but the population is only 4000 on this island so it's here and we're just having to be careful," Trubridge said.

"We live kind of like an isolated life in any case, it's not like there are big shopping malls and stuff where you encounter a lot of people. We're just keeping to ourselves ...the only time we might come into proximity with other people is at the grocery store I guess and we're being very careful.

"We could go to restaurants and kind of mingle more because we're not in a full lockdown in the Bahamas but we choose just to keep to ourselves so that we can reduce the risk as much as possible."

Trubridge makes a living from holding his breath for as long as four minutes underwater, descending 100m.

Getting the disease could be catastrophic because of the way it attacks the lungs.

"I'm pretty terrified to be honest because there's a very high risk that there would be some kind of long term or permanent damage to lungs or other important organs."

"Even if there's just 5 percent damage to lung function then that's it for a career in free diving where you're dependent entirely on your lungs. So I'm very very wary of it, which is in part why I've stayed on this island where I know I can keep away from most people and try to mitigate risks in every way I can.

"Until the vaccine comes out ...it's the only kind of light at the end of the tunnel that might start to reduce that anxiety about getting this virus."

He's also been hit by the economic fall-out from Covid-19, losing some of his sponsorship deals as the pandemic forced the cancellation of competitions around the world.

In April he lost a large percentage of income that way but he has realistic expectations about where he ranks in a global pandemic.

"I'm aware of the fact that in a major crisis like this jobs that you could kind of see as luxuries like the sports or the arts and not involved in just pure human survival are the first ones to kind of be expendable. I'm aware of that risk which means I have to kind of double down on my efforts to transition and to broaden out into other areas as well.

"I've been doing advanced freediving tuition, speaking engagements, online webinars and that kind of stuff. I'm doing more of that now partly because I enjoy doing that but also because it's something I would like to transition into after free diving."

Trubridge arrived in the Bahamas in the middle of March just before the pandemic really took off around the world.

He typically spends about six months there each year to train in one of the best known freediving spots in the world.

His wife and young daughter were supposed to join him a month or two later from Japan but they didn't get there until August.

"All the paper work and tests and stuff that we needed to complete before they could actually travel and trying to line up all the requirements. It was a bit of a nightmare but once they finally got here of course it was all worth it."

Trubridge said they were hoping to get back to New Zealand for Christmas if quarantine regulations were relaxed.

In a normal year, the competitive season runs from June through to September/October where the world's best will compete in places like Greece, Honduras, and the Philippines.

The rest of the year Trubridge is building a base towards that with high volume/low intensity training.

"Every year we hold an event in the Bahamas called Vertical Blue which has been going on now since 2008 and that's always a highlight, it's the biggest annual event in free diving now."

Despite not knowing when he might compete next, Trubridge said he wasn't struggling with motivation and was always trying to get deeper.

Sometimes Trubridge has to announce record attempts or goals but if he's not obliged to he tries to keep them to himself.

He said it helped keep the "motivational fire" burning inside him.

"When you talk about it more to other people it diffuses and spreads that energy. Also sometimes the positive feedback you get from that ...even though you're just voicing an objective or a goal - that can give you the reward which reduces your motivation, which you don't want if you actually want to achieve your goals."

The biennial World Championship event is due to be held next year and plans are in motion to set up a free diving world series circuit, similar to what surfing has.

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