Damian Peklar is a man who does many things. He has jumped out of airplanes, rides motorcycles, and cuts through ice to dive. Sometimes, its easy to forget that the Slovenian diver spends most of his life in a wheelchair.
Despite the limitations from spinal cord injury, last month Damian and other divers from the International Association for Handicapped Divers Adriatic (IAHD Adriatic) made good on the the opportunity of a lifetime diving in Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC).
The Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre
Located in Star City, Russia (Zvyozdny Gorodok), the GCTC is one of the most unique dive environments in the world, named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human being in space. The GCTC allowed the Suunto-equipped divers into an area where few divers have ever been it’s the same place that Russian cosmonauts train for operations in the weightlessness of space.
The team spent an hour in the crystal clear water of the hydrolab examining space modules, together with Nikita Vankov, the first Russian wheelchair diver to be certified by CMAS/CRASA. Nikita was trained in his native city, Anapa, on the Black Sea, by Russian instructors of the Foundation for support of the Russian state program Dostupnaya sreda (available environment). It was the dream dive and the fulfillment of a long term dream, says paradiver Damian Peklar.
This opportunity was the first of its kind in the world, adds Slovenian diver Branko Ravnak, principal organizer of the IAHD Adriatic. The indoor dive tank is a massive 5,000 cubic meters in volume, 12 meters in depth, and offers 45 viewing windows. It houses unique sights for scuba divers, including full-size mockups of Russian space station modules.
The team was supplied with a range of Suunto diving instruments, including the Suunto D4i, Suunto D6i, and the Suunto D9tx. Mika Holappa, Director for the Suunto Dive Business Unit, shares excitement for the IAHD Adriatic divers. “The group is so inspiring, and we’re very happy to have supported them in this unique project, he says.