CHICAGO — David Blaine took on a Zen-like appearance in the water tank as the minutes ticked by during his attempt to set a new breath-holding record. Oprah Winfrey, however, was anything but calm.
She fidgeted in her chair, pursed her lips, placed her head in her hands, and kept seeking reassurance from the doctor at her side about the 35-year-old magician’s persistently high heart rate.
“I’ll be glad when it’s over. I don’t like suspense,” she told the audience during a commercial break.
Soon enough, Winfrey — and Blaine — could breathe a lot easier.
Submerged in a water-filled sphere on the stage of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” during a live broadcast, Blaine held his breath for 17 minutes and 4 seconds. That bested the previous record of 16 minutes and 32 seconds, set Feb. 10 by Switzerland’s Peter Colat, according to Guinness World Records.
Blaine had a smile on his face soon after his head rose above the water and he took several deep gulps of air. Within about a minute, he was able to hold a microphone and tell Winfrey, “I feel great,” later adding that breaking the record was a fulfillment of “a lifelong dream.”
Before his attempt, Blaine was allowed to inhale pure oxygen for up to 30 minutes, although he inhaled for only 23 minutes. A Guinness World Records judge was on hand to certify the feat.
In May 2006 as a finale to a week spent in an aquarium with an air mask at New York’s Lincoln Center, Blaine tried to set another type of breath-holding record. Without breathing pure oxygen beforehand, he tried to break the existing record of 8 minutes and 58 seconds for an attempt of that type.
But he had to be rescued shortly after 7 minutes when he was unconscious and having convulsions.
Blaine was in much better shape after Wednesday’s attempt. He walked unassisted down a set of stairs to join Winfrey for an interview. He told her he had doubted while in the water whether he’d be able to break the record because of his high heart rate.
The lower the heart rate, the less oxygen is consumed.
Blaine had expected his heart rate to drop perhaps as low as under 20 beats per minute while he was in the water. But for most of the attempt, it was over 100 beats per minute, then started dropping and fluctuating rapidly during the last 2 1/2 minutes.
While training, Blaine said he would meditate to lower his heart rate. But amid the hubbub of a live studio audience, and with a record at stake, Blaine admitted he had trouble forgetting his surroundings.
Next, Blaine said he plans to try to break the world record for staying awake. The current record is 11 1/2 days, he said.