SINGAPORE - After a breakthrough 2019 in which she broke several national records, freediver Lim Anqi had been hoping for an even more successful 2020. But the pandemic threw her plans into disarray.
Instead of plunging into oceans, Lim, who frequently travelled around the region to train and compete, spent most of the past 1½ years training in pools to work on her breath work, strength and technique, as well as running to keep fit.
In her first competition after the hiatus, she set two national record in the constant-weight (CWT) no-fins and monofin disciplines at the Aida Triton Cup in Kalamata, Greece.
On Friday (Aug 27), she dove to a depth of 51m in the CWT no-fins competition, eclipsing her previous record of 50m set in 2019. The next day, Lim gave herself a perfect birthday present with a 63m dive in the CWT monofin discipline, bettering her previous mark of 62m from 2018.
The 39-year-old said: "I felt a bit unprepared for the competition but I wanted to make the best of it and just do the best out of these circumstances because haven't been able to train in Singapore, then coming here and jumping straight into the deep ocean, I cannot expect to make big attempts, but I'm surprised that I was able to do it."
The dive was significant in other ways. In July 2019, she had suffered her first-ever blackout while attempting to reach the 51-metre mark in the discipline during a training session before a competition in Roatan, Honduras.
It took some time before she dared to go to such depths again, but she successfully met the 50m mark five months later.
Lim, who began pursuing a full-time physiotherapy degree at the Singapore Institute of Technology last year, said: "I could remember the incident, but I just treated it like a training dive and didn't put too much pressure on myself.
"I told myself to just do my best and if I couldn't swim up, I would just pull the rope coming up."
Her trip to Greece did not begin well. During the first few days of training, she found it hard to reach depths of 50-60m in the monofin discipline; whereas previously she could manage 65-68m in training.
Training in open waters again required acclimatising. After all, the closest experience she had in Singapore was freediving at Lazarus Island, but that was only to depths of 16-20m
Lim considered pulling out of the competition, but decided to give the no fins discipline a try and made some progress there, achieving a 48m dive in training which encouraged her to go for the 51m mark.
"The body needs time to adapt, so it's a sport where you need a lot of patience or it could be dangerous, it's not something you can push or force," said Lim, who is taking part in the constant-weight, monofin discipline on Saturday.
"I also had to adjust to the cold waters because at the depths I am going, it goes down to 20 deg C, which is very cold for me."
National swimmer Quah Ting Wen also broke new ground as she lowered the women's 100m individual medley short course record on Friday.
Quah, who is competing for International Swimming League team DC Trident in Naples, Italy, clocked a time of 1min 1.43sec, rewriting Joscelin Yeo's previous mark of 1:01.72 set in 2004.