Chris Holmes’ is one of a growing breed of sportsmen prepared to put his mind and body through hell for success.

And if that sounds a little far-fetched, consider this: the Langdon Hills diver can hold his breath under water for more than six minutes and he can swim six lengths of a 25m pool without surfacing for air.

These are the kind of near-superhuman achievements which have taken Holmes – who does his training at Basildon Sub Aqua Club – to the cusp of international selection.

The diver has just returned from the British national championship in Liverpool where he was up against 80 divers, as well as a smattering of the top European competitors looking for serious competition, in advance of the world championships.

The 40-year-old, who only took up the sport three years ago, said: “We were competing at the Liverpool Aquatic Centre and I placed fourth overall – which I was pleased with.

“In the dynamic no-fin event I did 102m and on day two there was the static event. I’ve held my breath for six minutes and 20 seconds before.

“This time I only managed five minutes and one second.

“But it’s a different case in the big competition when the pressure is on you.”

In the final part of the event – the Dynamic with mono fin – Holmes swum for 136m under water.

“When I’m asked to put this into prespective I point out that this is the length of six, 25m swimming pools. That show’s people how far we’re going.”

Holmes – who works as head of security for House of Frazer in London – said that fourth place was a decent performance in what he terms a “strategic year” as he prepares himself for the European Championships which take place in the deep, dark and icy cold waters of a quarry in Chepstow in Wales at the end of May.

“The deep diving outdoor competitions are very different from the pool events – but the pool events are run as a sort of pre-requisite really, to test your ability to keep calm and manage your breathing.

“Free-divers tend to like to enjoy being close to the edge. It’s exciting to know where your limits are as a human being.”

“My end game is to make the world championships in Nice in September.

“I think the Brits will take a squad of about five or six divers.

“I have not done the worlds before, so that’s my aim.

“I owe a lot to Terry Tarling and a lot of the others at the Basildon Sub Aqua where I train,” he added.