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David Blaine Breaks Record for Holding His Breath Underwater

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May 01, 2008 | 5:08am EDT

Death-defying illusionist David Blaine set a new world record on TV on Wednesday when he held his breath underwater for 17 minutes and four seconds.

With Guinness Book of Records official Stuart Claxton in the audience for the feat on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Blaine climbed into a water-filled sphere to beat the record set by a Swiss man in February.

It wasn't the first time Blaine had attempted to set a breath-holding record--he had to be rescued by divers after seven minutes during a similar stunt in 2006, which came after he spent a week living underwater.

But this time Blaine trained with the world's best free divers and embarked on a rigorous air-deprivation and workout program to build his red blood cell count and train his body to cope with a lack of oxygen.

The illusionist, whose past stunts have included spending 63 hours in a block of ice and living in a glass box suspended over the River Thames in London for a week, came up for air after 17 minutes, shattering the existing 16 minutes and 32 seconds record by more than half a minute.

A smiling Blaine told Winfrey, "It was intense. I feel great."

His next death-defying feat will be to attempt to stay awake for longer than any other person--over 11 days: "That would be a million seconds; that's the goal."

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