USA National Record
Expectations were high as Tom Gilmore arrived at the pool for his second attempt at bettering the US national record for Dynamic No Fins at PFI's recent Deja Blue 7 competition in Grand Cayman. The evening prior, Tom blacked out during an epic performance of 163 meters, a mark which would have shattered the previous record of 150 meters set by another PFI instructor, John Hullverson, at the Pool World Championships in Belgrade last June. But Tom pushed too far and earned a disappointing red card disqualification as a result.
After 24 hours of reflection and renewed determination, Tom was ready to try again for a spot in the record books. The journey to this point had been a long one, filled with inspiration and plenty of hard work.
A submarine nuclear propulsion engineer by training, Tom had always been in and around the water. He was an NCAA All American swimmer in college at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, a SCUBA Divemaster for many years, and has been a PFI instructor since 2014. At Deja Blue 6 in 2015, Tom came up just one meter short of tying the DNF record which was then 142 meters. He resolved to train hard and claim the record the following year.
Back home in Panama City Beach, Florida, where he teaches PFI Freediver classes, Tom committed himself to a rigorous training regimen of pool workouts, weight training and yoga. He increased his flexibility, trimmed 20 pounds from his already athletic frame and gained increased distance and confidence in the pool. As Deja Blue 7 approached, both Tom and his daughter, Meghan Gilmore (who is an up and coming competitive freediver in her own right), were ready to kick butt at the competition.
After his blackout on Day One of the comp, here's Tom's description of his second attempt the next day:
"I had the entire next day to rest and relax and prepare for another shot at the record. This time, though, I went over the swim dozens of times in my head while stretching and meditating. Visualization is a great tool for creating successful performances and I wanted to make sure I came up right after the turn at 150 meters. When it came time for my dive, I was ready. I took my last breath, pushed off the wall and did my best. The swim went great and i just tried to remember to come up after making the turn. Fortunately, I did, and it was a wonderful thing during my surface protocol to see Meghan and all the PFI staff and DB7 competitors looking at me with smiles and elation. I was getting pretty excited and started doing my recovery breaths to the point I almost hyperventilated! After the 30 second judging period, the white card came and it was a dream come true! I was and am so excited to have performed so well at an age where some may think it's not possible to compete." (Believe it or not, Tom is 57 years old!)
Tom credits much of his success to rigorous pool workouts focusing on kicking and underwater pull technique. Here's his description of one of his workouts:
"I like to do a set of 20 X 50 yards of breastroke pulling (one underwater pull only) and mark how far one pull gets me across the pool. I can't get across a 25 yard pool on 2 pulls & 2 kicks yet, but I'm working on it. After doing the one pull and marking the distance, I will finish the 50 yard swim doing breastroke kick with my hands held behind my back (all on breathhold). I learned this drill from Coach Brian Haddad of the Panama City Beach Swim Team, who taught me that having your hands behind your back helps significantly to feel the kicks and work on distance made per kick cycle in DNF. It really works."
PFI is very proud and excited that both Tom and his daughter Meghan, as well as PFI instructor Ashleigh Baird, have been selected to represent the United States as part of TEAM USA at the World Freediving Championships in Kalamata, Greece in September. The competition tests athletes in three disciplines-- Constant Weight, Dynamic Apnea and Static Apnea, and the US looks to field a competitive and eager team this year. GO TEAM USA!
Check out the official video of Tom's record setting performance here on our Vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/166286399, and if you're interested in taking a PFI freediving course from our newest record holder, contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org or PFI at email@example.com