Netflix’s recent documentary The Deepest Breath follows the story of Alessia Zecchini and her partner Stephen Keenan, two passionate athletes who found love and excitement in the high-stakes world of freediving. Showcasing their obsession with the extreme sport (that leaves both participants and fans gasping for air), the film beautifully documents the couple's journey to finding one another, their work as a team, and the perilous record-setting attempt that changes their lives forever. It's no wonder then that the piece has captivated audiences since its July release, just as the fearless Ms. Zecchini has been doing for decades.
For those unfamiliar with freediving, the sport involves holding one’s breath for minutes at a time while executing deep dives without the assistance of any breathing apparatus. And it's no surprise that with intense water pressure and a lack of oxygen comes severe risks that can include decompression sickness, blackouts, barotrauma, and even death.
Despite the dangers, Alessia has long been a freediving powerhouse, breaking records and redefining the limits of human potential. Born in Rome on June 30, 1992, she discovered her fascination with water at a young age. The ocean's depths were not just a source of wonder, but also a place where she felt a deep sense of connection and calm.
Her aqua obsession began with competitive swimming at the age of five, but it was at 13 that Alessia found her true calling. Inspired by legendary freediver Natalia Molchanova, a world champion, Zecchini began taking diving courses as a young teen. And her practices quickly became more than a hobby, drawing her in with the promise of peace and solitude beneath the sea's surface, and offering an escape from the chaos of everyday life.
It was in 2014, however, that her career underwent a profound shift, when she joined the Apnea Academy, founded by freediving pioneer Umberto Pelizzari. Under his mentorship, she quickly progressed, displaying an innate talent and tenacity.
A multiple gold medal winner and world record holder, today Alessia holds titles in a range categories. As documented in The Deepest Breath, her hard work and dedication really began paying off in 2017 when she secured first place in the women's Constant Weight Apnea With Monofin designation, diving to an incredible depth of -104 meters, while at the famous Vertical Blue competition held annually in the Bahamas. It was here that she met Dublin native and safety diver Stephen Keenan, who coached her to the win, cementing a lasting personal and professional bond between the pair. She has since continued to push her limits, setting additional contest records both with and without fins, as well as in the Free Immersion category, and her titles extend far beyond the Caribbean to competitions worldwide.
But with the tremendous highs have come some heart-wrenching lows, and the documentary masterfully presents the challenges that result when testing the boundaries of human capability. Alessia's accomplishments are not just impressive physical feats but also a testament to her mental fortitude, and her impressive journey -- that includes both triumph and tragedy -- offers powerful lessons on focus, resilience, and the limitless potential of the human body and spirit. We give The Deepest Breath 5 stars!
Emily Rascon is from San Diego, California and is currently in the process of completing her Masters in Human Geography through the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. She has always had a passion for traveling and learning new languages, having lived in Germany and now Italy. Emily loves reading books, going hiking, and of course, practicing her Italian! In addition, Emily enjoys creating content on TikTok, where she documents her life abroad and encourages people to find the confidence to pursue their inner wanderlust.