IBTM World 2019 names Thailand cave rescuer as keynote speaker

British cave diver John Volanthen will speak about how he helped save a group of young Thai footballers trapped in flooded caves at IBTM World 2019.


“We’re honoured to have John join us this year as our first keynote speaker at IBTM World. Not only is his story inspiring and uplifting, but his experience can be related to so many different situations and we can apply his lessons in keeping calm and preparing well, to our everyday lives,” David Thompson, event director, IBTM World, said.

Volanthen spoke of his experiences: “The Tham Luang Thailand Cave Rescue last year, captivated the world for three weeks. Not only did it extend the limits of what is possible in cave rescue, but it pushed me and my team mentally. We worked tirelessly to bring those boys out alive, it’s incredible what can be achieved with calm, considered determination and thorough preparation. I hope that my knowledge following the rescue can inspire and help others in preparing for the unexpected and being resilient and adaptable when things don’t go to plan.”

The cave diver will hold a session at the event’s Knowledge Programme to discuss managing risk and how to keep a cool head in a crisis. By using his personal experiences, Volanthen demonstrates how perseverance, determination and preparation are the important factors – rather than luck – to achieve success against adversity.

“Panic and adrenaline are great in certain situations – but not in cave-diving,” he said in a Sunday Times article. “The last thing you want is any adrenaline whatsoever.”

He added: “It [cave diving] is like that puzzle with the fox, the chicken and the grain. It’s not dangerous if you do it right.”

The Tham Luang Thailand cave rescue story hit the headlines in 2018, with news that 12 young footballers and their coach were stranded inside underground tunnels flooded by torrential rains, trapping the group inside.

Volanthen specialises in rescues through the Cave Rescue Organisation, South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue, and the British Cave Rescue Council. The British diver and a colleague, Richard Stanton were the first to make contact with the young footballers.

In a BBC interview after the rescue, Volanthen was asked, “Can you see that what you did was fairly remarkable?” He responded, “I can see it was a first, how’s that?”

In the 2019 New Year Honours, Volanthen was awarded the George Medal for his role at Tham Luang.

IBTM World 2019 takes places from 19 – 21 November 2019 at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona.

First published by M&IT