Described in Netflix’s ‘The Deepest Breath’ as a freediving athlete with an “innate connection to the sea” and an unwavering determination, Hanako Hirose is simply one of the best in her field. That’s because this petite Japanese woman is not only a passionate swimmer, but she also understands the technicalities of this extreme sport, just like her Italian rival/friend Alessia Zecchini. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about her — with a specific focus on her early background, her career trajectory, as well as her current standing — we’ve got the essential details for you.
Who is Hanako Hirose?
Although born on July 29, 1986, on the wondrous island of Mikurajima near Tokyo, Hanako primarily grew up in Urayasu City owing to her family’s decision to move when she was two or three. However, the truth is she managed to go back a lot to visit her grandparents, which is when she fell utterly in love with the deep waters and the unequivocally free lifestyle it unfailingly offered. She has thus admittedly been swimming with dolphins since elementary school, only to then add she loves “everything about the ocean: diving, swimming with dolphins, and just being in the water.”
Hanako continued, “As I kept swimming, I wanted to see what my limits were and challenge myself to dive deeper. I was particularly inspired by the movie ‘The Big Blue,’ which opened my eyes to the freediving world. During my second year of high school, I signed up for a short two-day freediving course in Izu. That’s around the time I determined that one day I was going to break the world record for freediving.” But alas, because there weren’t many institutions for this particular sport in Japan at the time, she ended up pursuing a scuba course while hoping for the best.
Thankfully, everything panned out for Hanako as she soon landed a spot as an instructor at one of her teacher’s private shops in Chiba, True North, only to meet her future husband there too. That’s when her real training began, enabling her to pursue the freediving dream by teaching, learning, and making mistakes before ultimately earning her debut on the major circuits in 2007. From there, the young athlete set several records in both domestic as well as international competitions and even won the first championship in Japanese history at the 2010 AIDA World Event.
Then came Hanako’s much-deserved entry into the national team, along with her determination to go after the woman’s world record of 101 meters set by Russian free diver Natalia Molchanova. Whether it be local indoor pools or open oceans, she hence subsequently practiced everywhere, just to actually dive 103 meters in 2017, followed by 106 meters in 2018 — both were in The Bahamas. Yet the unfortunate reality is she never held these records for long as her rival Alessia surpassed her by a meter each time within either mere hours or a day — the former’s personal best is now 110 meters thanks to her ability to hold her breath for 7 minutes 3 seconds.
Where is Hanako Hirose Now?
From what we can tell, Hanako has expanded her wings since the mid-2010s because she’s not just a competitive freediver anymore but also an underwater model and an entrepreneur. In fact, with her Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) as well as International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) Freediving Instructor Certification, she currently runs a school out of her base in Japan too. Plus, it appears as if the undeniably proficient athlete continues to represent her nation at every level, through which she has even acquired some incredible sponsors.
We should mention that Hanako has a single piece of advice when it comes to freediving, which is to relax. “Of course, there are the technical aspects of freediving, but the most important part I stress is understanding your body and how it relaxes,” she once said. “It’s so important to be in the right mindset… A major part of freediving is to relax and let go. When you’re able to do that, it’s easier to hold your breath for longer periods underwater.” She also admitted, “I don’t really think a lot when I dive… I turn off all my thoughts and emotions and become part of the ocean. It’s a really comfortable feeling.”