TIME free diving

The World’s Greatest Free Diver Is Missing and Presumed Dead in Spanish Waters

She set 41 world records and won 23 world championships in the sport

Natalia Molchanova, regarded by many as the greatest free diver in the history of the sport, is missing and presumed dead after she disappeared during a dive off the Spanish island of Formentera on Aug. 2.

Molchanova, who set 41 world records and won 23 world championships in the sport, was diving for fun with friends close to the village of La Savina in an area where currents can fluctuate powerfully, the New York Times reports. Because she was diving for leisure and not to set a record, she was not attached to the line that divers often use to mark depth and guard against emergencies.

Her personal records in competition include a dive of 233 feet without the use of fins and almost 300 feet with a monofin. She also held the world record for “static apnea,” in which a diver floats face-down in a pool, managing to stay 9 minutes 2 seconds without taking a breath.

Search efforts begun after her disappearance continued for two days, but her son, Alexey Molchanov, who is also a respected free diver, told the Times on August 4 that she is now not expected to be found alive.

“Free diving is not only sport, it’s a way to understand who we are,” Molchanova said in an interview with the Times last year. “When we go down, if we don’t think, we understand we are whole. We are one with world.”


TIME Television

Athlete Greg Louganis on His New Documentary: ‘I Was Thinking I Was Not Going to See 30’

HBO Sports

The Olympian and documentary subject opens up

One of the most prominent American athletes of the 1980s, Greg Louganis is back in the public eye—and he’s hoping to show the average TV viewer that he’s really just like you.

With Back on Board: Greg Louganis, airing August 4 at 10pm ET on HBO, Louganis opened up his complex life to a documentarian’s camera. The diver, who competed in the 1976, 1984, and 1988 Olympics (winning four gold medals in the process), declared he was HIV-positive after his final Olympics, causing a controversy over the blood he spilled after an injury. He’s also undergone a series of personal challenges, including financial hardship coinciding with the 2008 financial crisis.

Back on Board depicts Louganis taking gigs for cash, including a job judging a diving competition; we also see him recounting the path that brought him to fame first as one of the world’s top athletes and then as one of the earliest out gay celebrities. Louganis spoke to TIME about the film and what he’s learned through a life in public.

TIME: How would you evaluate sports’ openness to gay people today?

Greg Louganis: We’ve come so far—I point to Matthew Mitcham, the Olympic gold medalist from Australia. He came out because he felt that he couldn’t compete on that high level only sharing a part of himself and having to hide. I thought that was so incredibly admirable. And, of course, that paved the way for Tom Daley from the U.K. to come out.

I was fearful back in the ‘80s, because I didn’t want it to be about “The Gay Athlete.” It was just my policy not to discuss my personal life with members of the media. I also grew up at a time when it was okay. The sports reporters were respectful of that. If you read between the lines, it’d be pretty easy to figure out my sexual identity. It was a different time; we’ve come a long way.

Do you feel envious of younger athletes, or regret that the times were different when you were competing?

I don’t have any regrets; I really don’t. Every person, even today, whether you’re LGBT, straight, it doesn’t matter, an individual, has their own journey. I think it’s great that we’ve come so far. As I’m mentoring young divers for USA Diving, a lot of our youth see sexuality as more fluid. They resist the labels. Even “LGBTQ”—they don’t want the labels. They get it a lot better than the older generation. It’s great; I know that we have a lot of work left to do, especially around the world.

Between you, Mitcham, Daley—is there something about diving that makes it more conducive to gay star athletes? Michael Sam, for instance, is out, but did not end up playing in the NFL.

There have been Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers—people that have come out in team sports. Back in 1995 when I was on a book tour, a lot of young people in sports told me that they wanted to come out but were afraid to, because of the ramifications for their team. And that’s just what it is: A team sport. It’s easier if you’re competing in an individual sport, because, really, it’s just you that’s out there. But I think it’s changing, it’s evolving, and people are finding they have a lot more allies.

I can’t recall having seen a documentary about an athlete that was so frank about its subject’s reality; you really open up. What was the process by which you decided to grant so much access?

The producer read an article in 2010 about my making my way back to USA Diving and said “Greg Louganis: I didn’t know he ever left!” So he reached out to Cheryl Furjanic, the director who made Sync or Swim, a documentary about synchronized swimming. They came into my life at such a tumultuous time. I was on the verge of potentially losing my house. The one thing I learned from [memoir] Breaking the Surface is, I thought I was sharing my weaknesses. By sharing my weaknesses, I was actually sharing my strengths. With Back on Board, I wanted people to know that they weren’t alone. This was happening all over the country. It was all very classic: 2006, black mold scare, then contractors taking advantage of people in that situation, then Countrywide loans bought up by Bank of America, and people losing their homes!

The story is bigger than yourself, you’re saying.

It’s so important for people to understand, You’re not stupid: other people have made the same mistakes. And you’re not alone, because this could happen to an Olympic gold medalist, too! I’m not immune. Just because I had some success in one area of my life does not mean I’m going to have success in all areas of my life. That’s the reason why the mentoring is so important to me, because most athletes, once they finish their career in their chosen sport, they’re still pretty young. And so then it’s like, Now what? If they retire from their sport, you lose a part of your identity, of who you are. And a lot of athletes struggle with that.

When you go to the Olympic Games, that is the pinnacle. That is such a high high. Whether you’re successful or not, it’s still a high. But then the fallout after that is a low low. People talk about the post-Olympic blues. I tried to commit suicide, I battled depression, but it was in the back of my mind that this was kind of normal and to be expected. That’s why I’m most interested in the after-care. Kids need guidance of who they should trust and what questions they should ask. I’ve learned through trial and error—a lot of error on my part!

Was returning to USA Diving complicated for you, given the retroactive controversy over your bleeding in the pool during the 1988 Olympics, when you knew you were HIV-positive?

I don’t read my press. I started that years ago. My first Olympics was when I was 16. My mom was my proofreader. If an article was written, she’d say, “Oh, Greg, read this one, they had nice things to say,” so I could be in gratitude, so if I ran into that reporter again, I could say thank you and be gracious. The other stuff: Forget it. But when I came forward about my HIV status with Barbara Walters and Oprah, there was a lot of debate going on and I bore the brunt of criticism. I didn’t mind that, because people were talking. All of those people who cheered for me during the Olympic Games can no longer say their lives have not been affected by HIV/AIDS. And so it really got people to think and talk about this issue and bring some focus to it.

That’s one thing that film really illustrates. When it shows me in 1988, an atomic bomb could have gone off and I wouldn’t have known it. But at the same time, ACT UP was happening, and people wanted people with HIV/AIDS to be tattooed and quarantined. That was a lot of people’s mentality.

It’s almost as though you were so involved in athletics that you missed early activism, but, for lack of a better term, perhaps you made up for it by raising awareness later on?

Putting things in a timeline and into perspective: I retired after the 1988 Games, and after that, I was thinking I was not going to see 30, because HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, and I was also in an abusive relationship. And so I was trying to extricate myself from that relationship, which took a lot of energy, and focus, and courage, and so that’s where my focus was in getting out of that relationship. A lot of the things kind of make sense; I couldn’t really focus on being an activist, because I was just trying to get myself together and get out of this as a whole person. Now, I can look back on those experiences, however horrendous, those are the gems of my life, because that’s taught me empathy. I can be empathetic to people who are in similar situations. This opened up a line of communication that is impactful and meaningful.

Do you look back on your younger self, achieving at such a high level while keeping so much hidden, as a different person entirely?

I look back, and all I have to do is see snapshots of the 1988 Olympic Games, our farewell dinner. Each of the Olympians shared a story about their experience. I got up, received my ring, turned to my coach, and said, “Nobody will ever know what we’ve just been through.” And I just broke down. Because I truly thought I was taking this to the grave. I didn’t know how much time I had. It was so raw and emotional, and he understood. It was just an incredible moment that nobody knew. Nobody had any idea or clue.

Now I’m 55, and I’m here, and I’m married. It’s unbelievable. I never dreamed this day would be possible. People always ask “How are you doing? How are you doing really?” But my viral load’s undetectable, my T-cells are higher than they’ve ever been. I do acupuncture and Eastern treatments as well. There’s so many things happening in my life, and Back on Board is another stepping stone.

TIME viral

Watch Two Filipino Divers Spectacularly Mess Up in International Competition

That's two perfect zeroes

A video of two Filipino divers has gone viral after the two athletes botched up their fourth dives in the men’s 3-m springboard event Wednesday at the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

John Elmerson Fabriga, 21, and John David Pahoyo, 17, both landed awkwardly on their backs after attempting their dives, fails that earned them both a score of zero from the judges, reports the Inquirer.net.

Both men tried to laugh off their blunders after the dive and Pahoyo even commented on the video, which has racked up over 1.6 million views after it was posted to the Facebook page SGAG.

“I even laughed at myself after I did this dive,” he said tagging his teammate Fabriga. “I am still proud because not all of us has the privilege to represent our own country to such a big sporting event like this. And by the way can I ask all of you if you can still smile after getting embarrassed in front of thousands of people?”

But not everybody is laughing, as Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia reportedly said Thursday he wants an explanation from the aquatics chief Mark Joseph.

“I will give the opportunity for the Philippine Swimming Inc. president to explain, because he fought for these divers to come here and compete,” said Garcia.


TIME photo essay

Photographer Captures Sweet Moments of Summer

Photographer Bryan Derballa captures moments that exist between the borders of childhood and adulthood with his considered, affectionate portraits of a summer getaway

Raised in North Carolina and educated in California, the Brooklyn-based photographer Bryan Derballa has an unwavering love for the outdoors. For the last four summers, he’s set aside his work in order to head into the country with his friends. For him, these journeys are essential to his livelihood. As he enters his thirties, they allow him to hang onto what he calls the “liminal state between youth and adulthood. It’s a period of uncertainty that occurs sometime after college but before homeownership, when friends become family and time becomes finite.”

This theme of chasing childhood translates directly into Derballa’s work. Images of diving into the sea, setting off fireworks, and cuddling on the beach illustrate the sweet moments of summer everyone wishes they had more of.

As the responsibilities of adulthood quickly replace the recklessness of adolescence, Derballa has become increasingly aware of the importance of holding onto the fleeting moments of adolescence. “Now, I’ve got real responsibilities and strict deadlines and client relationships to manage,” Derballa says. “I spend equal amounts of time looking at real estate properties online as I do watching skate videos on the Thrasher website.”

For him, both adulthood and his increasing successes are exciting, but there is also an inherent fear in growing up. “As we get older and inevitably jaded, the world loses its mystery,” he says. His images show this, succinctly capturing the final moments of youth.

Despite the fear and anxiety of living in the delicate space between youth and age, caution and danger, Derballa has found ways to deal with it. “The feeling I get just before jumping 60 feet into the bottom of a waterfall has no rational value in my adult life, but I live for it. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to stare down mortality with the invincibility of youth, but I cherish all the remaining seconds that I can.”

Bryan Derballa is a documentary photographer and creator of the photo blog Lovebryan. He was recently selected as one of PDN 30’s emerging photographers of 2014.

Josh Raab is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow him on Instagram @instagraabit

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 14 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From inflatable toads to Taiwanese "frog men," here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 12 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From Bastille Day to baby ducks, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME diving

Diving into a Different World Cup

This World Cup isn't about soccer. Divers from around the world display their acrobatic maneuvers in the biannual 6-day event, flying off springboards and platforms ranging from 3 to 10 meters

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 12 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From World Cup craziness to prenatal yoga, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME photo essay

A Young Olympian: Diver Carolina Mendoza’s Path to London

Although she is one of the youngest athletes set to compete in this summer's Olympic games, 15-year-old Carolina Mendoza displays a maturity beyond her years through her training. TIME commissioned photographer Tomas Munita to photograph Mendoza as she prepared for London.

Although she is one of the youngest athletes set to compete in this summer’s Olympic games, 15-year-old Carolina Mendoza displays a maturity beyond her years through her training. In early June, TIME commissioned photographer Tomas Munita to photograph Mendoza as she prepared to represent Mexico in the 10-m platform dive in London—one of the only remaining Olympic sports permitting teenage competitors as young as 14.

(For daily coverage of the 2012 Games, visit TIME’s Olympics blog)

Munita, who photographed Mendoza at the National High-Performance Center (CNAR) in Mexico City, was drawn to his subject’s balanced approach to her training. At an age where many kids face distractions from friends, family and school, Mendoza has found a rare balance in the frenzy of her life.

“Her happiness and professionalism completely explains her success,” he said. “She is not just tough practicing over and over again, but she also loves what she does as a challenge and a game—not just as pure competition.”

Mendoza seems perfectly suited for the rigors of the Olympics. Learning to walk at 9 months old and swimming by age 2, she was encouraged athletically by her parents: her mother, a Mexican national track-and-field champion and her father, an Olympic cyclist competing at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

At age 11, Mendoza discovered that her experience in both swimming and gymnastics found harmony in diving. And now, four years later, she is packing for the London Games.

Munita watched in awe as Mendoza dove again and again during practice. “She works every detail systematically and patiently. In between each dive, she finds time to joke and laugh loudly with her partners,” he said. “Then, suddenly, she’s running up the ladders again.”

Read more about Carolina Mendoza on TIME.com.

Tomas Munita is a freelance photographer based in Santiago, Chile. He previously photographed Church and State: The Role of Religion in Cuba for TIME.

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