Blaine fails to set record

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NEW YORK (AP) – Stunt artist David Blaine was pulled from an aquarium by divers Monday nearly two minutes short of his goal of setting a world record for holding his breath under water.

Blaine was trying to free himself from chains and handcuffs while bidding to break the world record for holding one’s breath under water of 8 minutes, 58 seconds. The stunt, following a weeklong endurance challenge under water, was televised live by ABC.

With Blaine’s face contorted in pain and bubbles coming up to the surface, divers went in to release him from the chains and pull him out. Blaine held his breath for 7:08.

“He is pushing his body insanely to the limits,” said Dr. Murat Gunel, who heads Blaine’s medical team and is associate professor of neurosurgery at Yale University School of Medicine, before the attempt.

Gunel and other medical experts had been monitoring Blaine’s condition 24 hours a day from an adjacent tent filled with medical equipment and machines.

Large crowds gathered all day Monday for a closer look at the man submerged in the 8-foot snow globe-like tank on the plaza of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Gunel said the challenge had taken a toll on the magician’s body, including liver damage, pins and needles in his feet and hands, some loss of sensation and rashes all over his body, which glistened pale white from across the glass.

On Sunday, Blaine, 33, wearing a diver’s helmet with a two-way communication system, told AP Television News he would “give it my best shot” to complete the feat despite peeling skin, sharp pains in his joints and a severe earache.

The stunt artist planned to put on chains and handcuffs, remove his oxygen tube and then escape while holding his breath longer than anyone else has.

Kirk Krack, the magician’s trainer and diving expert, said if there were any release of bubbles during the feat – a clear sign Blaine is going unconscious – divers would immediately jump into the tank. While one diver pinched Blaine’s nose and closed his mouth to prevent him from swallowing water, which could be fatal, another diver freed him from the chains and brought him to the surface.

Blaine’s finale was aired live in a two-hour ABC special, titled “David Blaine: Drowned Alive,” at 8 p.m. Monday.

Blaine started training in December, with some help from Navy SEALS. He lost 50 pounds so his body would require less oxygen.

As early as on the second day of his challenge, Gunel said, there was evidence that Blaine was suffering liver failure; the medical team consulted with medical experts at NASA before stabilizing his condition.

Blaine’s underwater environment was similar to the weightlessness experienced by astronauts in outer space, he said.

“I told him he needed to get out of the water, and he refused me,” said Gunel. “He said he did not want to let the people down.”

The doctor said Blaine agreed to allow researchers at Yale to examine him after the stunt to see what they can learn about how the body responds to the environment underwater.

All day long, curious onlookers lined up to walk past the sphere.

Linda Brady, of the Bronx, brought along a boom box and loudly played Jennifer Lopez’s “My Love is All I Have.” Blaine appeared to respond by bopping to the beat.

“I just love him,” said Brady. “He has a creative mind just like me, and he’s crazy just like me.”

Another spectator, David Linker, said Blaine symbolized “man’s strength to go beyond what normal people can do.”

Blaine’s previous feats included balancing on a 22-inch circular platform atop a 100-foot pole for 35 hours, being buried alive in a see-through coffin for a week and surviving inside a massive block of ice for 61 hours, all of which were performed in New York. In 2003, he fasted for 44 days in a suspended acrylic box over the Thames River in London.

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