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David Blaine sets breath holding record for Oprah

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Magician David Blaine set a world record for underwater breath holding on Wednesday when he stopped breathing for more than 17 minutes suspended in a water-filled sphere on the stage of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.

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“I feel great,” the bearded 35-year-old Brooklyn-born Blaine said when he was pulled to the surface after setting the mark.

“I actually started to doubt I was going to make it because I’d never done it with such a high heart rate,” he added. His aides said during the event that his heart rate should have dropped far lower than it did.

“I feel happy .. a life-long dream,” he told Winfrey afterward. He said he was hoping to make it for 23 minutes. He was pulled from the water after 17 minutes, four and four-tenths seconds.

The previous record of 16 minutes 32 seconds was set earlier this year in Switzerland by Peter Colat.

Blaine also said he was aware that his heart was beating irregularly toward the end of the stunt.

Blaine’s previous stunts included 44 days in a glass box hung near the River Thames and enclosure in a block of ice in Times Square for 63 hours.

In an interview with Winfrey before he submerged himself Blaine said he was more excited than nervous and laughed off a question from the talk show host on whether he had a “death wish.”

Blaine, clad in a silver wet suit, entered an acrylic sphere filled with 1,800 gallons of water and spent the first 23 minutes inhaling pure oxygen, packing his lungs with extra oxygen just before the breathing tubes were removed.

“There’s no enhancement, no cheating,” he told Winfrey, adding that while he makes his living as a magician, the stunts he does are not about magic but about pushing the limits of the human body.

Blaine said he reached a meditative state while submerged, with help from the stage lights reflecting off the sphere. But hearing his heartbeat left him more conscious, he said, adding “I was pretty much here the whole time.”

Winfrey, whose syndicated show has a worldwide audience of millions, asked him what he was thinking about during the stunt.

“You,” he told her.

Additional reporting by Andrew Stern, Editing by Sandra Maler