In 1053, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed to the top of Mount Everest. The next challenge was to climb it without bottled oxygen. This was the goal of Austrian climbers Peter Habeler and Reinhold Messner. Doctors said they were crazy and told them not to try it. They tried it anyway. On 8 May 1978, they were about 800 metres from the top of Everest. They woke at 3 a.m. and began preparing. It took them two hours to get dressed. Every breath was precious and they used their hands to communicate. Climbing was slow. Messner thought he was going to burst like a balloon. At 8,800 metres, they stopped and lay down every few steps because of the lack of oxygen. But between one and two in the afternoon they achieved their ‘impossible’ goal. They reached the top of Mount Everest without oxygen.
Most people can hold their breath long enough to dive to the bottom of a swimming pool, but on 17 August 2002, Tanya Streeter went a lot, lot deeper. The 29-year-old woman held her breath for 3 minutes 26 seconds and became the world free-diving champion. She dived 160 metres below the surface of the sea (that’s further than three football pitches). During the dive her lungs shrank to the size of oranges. Her heart slowed to fifteen beats a minute and she sang her national anthem in her head to control her fear. Tanya says that her mental strength is more important than her physical strength. ‘I am a very determined person. When I decide to do something, I do it. “Redefine your limits” is my motto.’