the records, the rivalry with Mayol, the Rai case, politics. Who was the greatest Italian freediver in history –

There are names that go beyond legend and enter the collective imagination of their time, synonymous with enterprises – with aptitudes – beyond the boundaries of normal human abilities. The name of Enzo Maiorca – who would have turned 90 this 21 June – was (also) this between the 60s and 80s: tale of impossible apneas, of descents into the most inaccessible deep blue with record blows, bitter rivalry, ambition and courage. On the verge of madness. In years when technology could not provide safe supports in terms of safety and performance aids, a man went down into the sea and descended. More and more already. With the fear of a child in the heart, the courage of an aggressive man in the head and that ambitious excitement that leads to setting new limits. To compress our transience as human beings; as if they were irrelevant.

The electrocution at 25 years old

The truth of an extraordinary man like Vincenzo Maiorca from Syracuse (1931-2016) who he was always afraid of the sea; a fear that over the decades – with the overlapping of companies and records, which made him famous in the world – became tenacious respect. In the knowledge that that deep blue one day could get tired of those constant challenges and take advantage of one of his mistakes. He had learned to swim at the age of 4. Almost at the same time he had begun to dive, as if prey to an irresistible call. Favored by a powerful physique, by the expanded rib cage, by increasingly trained lungs. It seems that the electrocution occurred at the age of 25, thanks to a doctor friend who, showing him newspaper articles that spoke of Ennio Falco and Alberto Novelli’s feat, went down to -41 meters in apnea (beating Bucher’s record), urged him to try. He who for fishing and pleasure was already able, in the sea of ​​Magna Graecia, to be able to sink without problems. So – before the two and the world – Enzo Maiorca he threw the gauntlet to himself. But it took time – he will tell -. Only after finding a gas mask that I adapted to diving, I was able to look at the “vertical sea” ….

Mallorca in 1974 (Ansa)
Mallorca in 1974 (Ansa)

From -45 meters to -101

In 1960 his legend began to take shape: -45 meters. A dramatic attempt – I will recount in 1975 -: I was not prepared for those quotas, even if today I smile at it …. The Brazilian Amerigo Santarelli surpassed the primacy of the Brazilian Amerigo Santarelli who a few months later – it was September – returned to regain the record (-46) . But three months later (November) Enzo was already at -49. Only the beginning of an endless series of limits exceeded until 1988. Descents in variable weight: from -51 to -54 (between 62 and 65); from -62 to -69 (between 66 and 69). And then again from -72 to -87 (between 69 and 73); before the last – incredible – jump: from -91 in 1986 to -101 in September 1988. Fifteen firsts in 26 years. Without forgetting the companies in constant weight: from August 1961 to September 1976, from -50 to -60 meters. And, with the new regulations, other records: -52 and -55 between 78 and ’79.

  With daughters Rossana and Patrizia (Luca Bergamin)
With daughters Rossana and Patrizia (Luca Bergamin)

The rivalry with Jacques Mayol

A cannibal of primacy, not without roughness. In particular, compared to his most credited rivals – Amerigo Santarelli, then Teteke Williams and Robert Croft – but above all Jacques Mayol (1927-2001). Sort of transalpine alter ego with which Mallorca rivals for a long time. He gruff and sanguine, almost blatant; Jacques staid and detached, almost ironic. Two different ways of understanding freediving: the aretuseo who attacked the abyss with his hyperventilated rage, the Frenchman (born in Shanghai and raised in the Caribbean) who understood the record as an almost philosophical representation of the human (mortal) limit. Between the two a dance of primates and twists that made them famous and admired as gladiators. Making freediving a well known and appreciated discipline by the masses. A rivalry then set in a famous film by the French director Luc Besson – Le grand bleu from 1988 – which Maiorca opposes, judging that he has been represented as a caricature of himself. Majorca fighting with the sea, like a conscious intruder; Mayol who aimed to be welcomed there, as a creature that belonged to you. The controversies between us? – Enzo confessed, after the suicide of his friend-rival – it was above all a game. Yes, we argued, we debated issues, but always within the limits of what was allowed. We liked to fight.

Enzo Maiorca (right) with Jacques Mayol (Ansa)
Enzo Maiorca (right) with Jacques Mayol (Ansa)

The incident live and politics

And, in the midst of all this, in 1974 the episode that makes the idea of ​​the charge – sometimes over the top – of Maiorca more human: during a live Rai in the waters of Sorrento, on the occasion of a new attempt at primacy ( at 90 meters), on the descent he collided with a sub of the state broadcaster, nullifying the enterprise. Resurfaced and infuriated, in front of the cameras he heard two blasphemies live on national. The episode led to his television ban for two years. A week later, meanwhile, he would have established a new record at -87 meters (without the TV) with a dramatic collapse upon emergence. Perhaps the most dramatic episode of his endless career. After the retirement in 1988, full of honors and honors, while also their daughters – Rossana and Patrizia – established female freediving world records, he will also give himself to politics and he will be senator for the National Alliance (from ’94 to ’96); and then collaborator of television programs (2000-2002 Blue Line). He will die on November 13, 2016 at the age of 85 in his Syracuse listed in city mourning. With his disappearance, the era of the great freediving enterprises that consigned to the history of sport the figure of a man able to bring out human limits, sinking himself, would have ended. More and more down, in search of himself: When I undertake my undertakings, I am always afraid. I know that the sea is the strongest element.

June 22, 2021 (change June 22, 2021 | 13:34)


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