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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 04:50 GMT 05:50 UK
Blaine fails in water record bid
David Blaine after his record-breaking attempt
David Blaine was pulled from the sphere after seven days

Illusionist David Blaine has failed in his bid to break the world record for holding his breath under water, while simultaneously escaping heavy chains.

Divers pulled him from his water-filled sphere after he began struggling two minutes short of his nine-minute goal.

Blaine spent seven days under water in New York receiving food and air through tubes. Crowds of spectators and millions of TV viewers saw him rescued.

Appearing shaken and weak, he thanked his supporters and left for hospital.

"This was a very difficult week but you all made it fly by with your strong spirit, your energy. Thank you so much everybody," Blaine told a cheering crowd in Lincoln Square.

David Blaine's record-breaking attempt
Blaine managed to hold his breath underwater for seven minutes
The current world record for holding breath under water stands at eight minutes and 58 seconds.

Blaine spent seven minutes and eight seconds holding his breath before being rescued.

He appeared to have freed himself from chains attached to his hands but was struggling to free his feet when the divers entered the tank and pulled him out.

Before the record attempt, Blaine spent a week in the tank, receiving medical treatment over the weekend.

Blaine's spokesman Pat Smith said his peeling skin and overall condition were worrying doctors.

'Considerable concern'

"They're worried about loss of dexterity," Mr Smith said. "There is considerable concern about both his hands and his muscle tone."

In order to receive medical attention, Blaine stuck his hand out of a hole at the top of a tank, allowing doctors to remove specially created gloves, apply lotion and put on new gloves.

Murat Gunel, Blaine's doctor, had advised against performing the escape.

David Blaine after his record-breaking attempt
Blaine's peeling skin and overall condition were worrying doctors
Before embarking on the stunt, the 33-year-old US showman shed 50lbs (23kg) in body weight to improve the efficiency of the way his body uses oxygen.

Prolonged submersion in water poses a number of hazards, including nerve damage, blackouts, sleep deprivation and skin problems.

Blaine had said his skin was causing him pain "like constant pins and needles" after five days in the acrylic sphere.

A lack of adequate oxygen, especially after seven days underwater, also carries a risk of irreversible brain injury, according to medical experts.

Blaine's previous stunts have included spending 61 hours inside a block of ice and fasting for 44 days in a Perspex box over London's River Thames.

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