Part 2 : 18/06 - 01/07 2004
"A pearl in the desert "
After fighting for an hour in Brussels' airport for his flight ticket, Patrick arrived at Hurghada on Monday 19/06 at 3.45 am. As usual his friend, Mr Alaa Eldin, picked him up at the airport. At that point Patrick had no idea that this visit in Egypt would be decisive for his diving career.
As usual in this season, the weather temperature "was extreme" and it was important to drink lots of fluid to avoid dehydration.
On the first day, Mr Alaa had set up a meeting for him with his friend General Mohamed - General Manager of the Tourism Department and Red Sea Governor Rate. After meeting Patrick, the General was so enthusiastic that he decided to accompany him to the welding workshop and discover with his own eyes, the "racing machine".
The training began on Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen reasons an important piece of the safety plan necessary for the 140 m dive, was not, and would not be in place before Patrick's departure. Patrick was not willing to jeopardize the project and take unconsidered risks just for the sake of pride. Together with his team he decided to set up the maximum depth limit at a 110 meters. "... No problem, somehow it will force me to work on my technique: speed, equalization...get comfortable, and enjoy the ride with 0 stress".
The first training got him to - 76 meters, 85m, 98m, 105m, an then 110m. Depth that he repeated several times during his stay. After more than 3 months out of the water, the symbioses between sea and freediver was still intact. I had the chance to accompany him on this trip. It was a wonderful and enriching new experience for me to follow the steps of a champion.
I caught him several times standing on the boat or on the beach facing the sea. Once, after a dive, I asked him what he was thinking during these moments: "... I'm not. I'm just talking to Her ". For me, this describes perfectly Patrick's personality: discrete, mysterious. This reminds me of a particular day where Patrick, after attending meeting after meeting, was finally interviewed by a great Egyptian newspaper. After, looking at his press book and interviewing him for a hour, the journalist asked him why he seemed so sad, "... do I ? (smile) I just have difficulties to ceasing the moment, my thoughts are always far away, analyzing, anticipating, planning. But believe me, I wouldn't change this for anything".
This world record attempt is definitely a team project. People who have not been around a world freediving record have no idea of how many people and the amount of effort involved. All this energy spent to meet a final common goal: the Ultimate Dive . On many occasions, I gave up following them when working their late hours, often until 2 o' clock in the morning de-briefing, re-adjusting and fixing details, to prepare the next dive.
I cannot count how many meetings Patrick attended, but his efforts were not in vain. One day, the General Mohamed came to the center with a letter in his hand and said. "Patrick! Congratulations! General Saad Abu Rida - Governor of the Red Sea District wants to meet you!". I watched Patrick reaction, he closed his eyes for a second and sighed. Mr Alaa read the letter (in Arabic) and screamed a loud "YES", kissed his friend and walked away. Patrick followed him and they embraced each other for the first time in front of me. I didn't know what this invitation letter meant but apparently, THEY did. (I had the politeness not to ask Patrick what they had talked about while hugging each other..)
To give you an impression of the moment, I feel privileged to have witnessed, let me tell you something about Mr Alaa. Mr Alaa Eldin is the former heavy weight African boxing champion, and for decades, he has been sharing an unrivaled love for the Red Sea (No wonder that the crossing of their paths was inevitable!). He possesses tremendous diving abilities, he is a miracle and a enigma of science. His Oxygen toxicity and Nitrogen tolerance (medically tested) are so high, that he is able to dive on normal air tank to incredible depth!
From there, Patrick spent the rest of his stay running from official meetings to training. Accompanied by the General Mohamed, they successively met Mr Maged El Kady - General Manager of Travel and Tourism Chamber and Chairman of the Egyptian Travel Agents Association, the General Mahoud Al Gindy - Vice-Governor of the Red Sea District, Mr Karim Helal - Chairman of the Board of the Red Sea Association, and the General Saad Abu Rida - Governor of the Red Sea District. The fairy tale happy ending is the following: the Egyptian government has decided to support Patrick and oganize his record attempt!
The trainings continued and General Mohamed (confirmed diver) joined the IMEI team on his day off to enjoy Patrick's demonstration to 110m. His daughter Noran, Egyptian champion of mono fin swimming had made the trip from Cairo to meet Patrick. After his dive, Patrick showed her some breathing techniques and checked her ability to freedive:
From left to right General Mohamed, Patrick, Noran, Mr Alaa
"...No doubt, Noran has the physical abilities to become one day a world class freediver. She is a true athlete who trains even more than me (smile). She has the patience and the maturity to progress rapidly. I think I have found here in Egypt the pearl I've been desperately looking for, for so long. I'll be honored to help her the best I can. If everything goes to plan, she will easily surpass 90% of the male freedivers in the near future."
Patrick left Hurghada on the 1st of August at 6.10 am. He doesn't even remember taking off. He woke up approaching Brussels'airport..Talk about holiday!