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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Interview: Egypt's 14-year-old diver Reem Ashraf proud of world record

Ghada Abdel Kader , Tuesday 13 Nov 2018
Reem Ashraf
Reem Ashraf during her dive (Photo: professional diver Ahmed El-Sayed)
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Egypt's Reem Ashraf said she realised a long-held dream last month after becoming the youngest female diver to set a world record for the longest open salt water scuba dive.

In an interview with Ahram Online, the 14-year-old spoke about her achievement that made headlines, given her young age.

She broke the world record of Australian diver Cristi Quill, 38, by five hours, having spent 56 hours and 25 minutes under water in the Red Sea areaof Sakala Wataneya at the entrance of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Quill's record was 51 hours and 25 minutes underwater at La Jolla beach shore, near San Diego, California, in July 2015.

"I was surprised that I was able to do it," Ashraf told Ahram Online.  

Ashraf's dream became true at last.  The motivation behind her adventure is her love for Egypt, she said.

"I want to promote tourism in my country.  I will visit tour all touristic places in Egypt and have photoshoots. I will also launch a campaign and travel all over the world to attract Arab and international visitors and tourists," she added.

Ashraf began her diving attempt on Wednesday, 3 October at 9:18 am and ended on Friday, 5 October at 5:25 pm at a depth of six and half meters. She broke the record at 1:30.

She spent her time drawing and playing games underwater to pass the time. "I've loved painting and drawing since I was a kid," she said.

Reem's diving instructor El-Sayed Hassan Ali said: "She only had drinks and juices during her dive. I trained her how to drink and sleep."

Alihas been working as a diving instructor for 33 years in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.  He boasts a record of 13,000 dives and is still practicing until now.

"It's a miracle by all means. It is too difficult for any diver to break her record," he said.

"She can break her own record again; it needs certain requirements which are too difficult to be met by any other diver."

Guinness record

All of a sudden, Ashraf's record attempt was rejected by the Guinness World Records. The reasons for this refusal were not clear, Reem's father, a former officer at the naval forces, told Ahram Online.

"My daughter is ready to invite and host GWR officials, adjudicators, medical professionals, technical and diving international experts who formed the GWR diving rules to a press conference in Sharm El-Sheikh," Ashraf Fawzi said.

"She will host them as Egypt's guests at her own expenses.  It will be an open debate and discussion between GWR and Egyptian experts at the press conference."

The story began when Ashraf communicated with the GWR management team and its officials before starting her dive to register her attempt.  They agreed on the duration of her dive to be 55 hours.

"Reem received an official agreement on her dive and she paid an $800 fee and received a payment bill," Fawzi commented.

However, GWR officials were aware that she was too young and under the age limit of 16. GWR did not also have a junior category.

GWR Team Manager in Egypt Ahmed Makled contacted Ashraf and her father before the event.  

"Makled began to make a plan with me for an official ceremony, attendees, media and everything. We even designed an official logo featuring Reem and GWR," Fawzi added.

Ashraf received certain guidelines and rules to follow in order to verify her attempt.

 "The conditions were too difficult and impracticable to apply," instructor Ali said.  

Among these rules were that the dive had to be at a depth of 5 meters. They asked her to shoot the whole 55-hour event underwater.

"This cannot be done. I have seen only three small shots for Quill," Ali added.  

However, Fawzi confirmed that his daughter has a full-recorded video for the 55 hours, saying "four professional cameras took all the shots from different angles."

Ashraf received two emails from GWR on 4 October.

GWR said in the first email early in the morning that it received evidence of her record attempt and that it was being reviewed by its managing team. The second email, sent a few minutes later,   informed Ashraf that she was disqualified.

"My daughter at that time was still underwater. She still had 15 hours left to complete her record," Fawzi wondered, saying he will file a lawsuit against GWR.

His daughter said she was proud of herself nevertheless.

"They said I cannot do it and that I am too young but I proved to them that I can," she stated.

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