Ice Swimming At The Winter Olympics

Ice Swimming At The Winter Olympics

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We do not think the water temperature at a potential ice swim at the Winter Olympics needs to be a specific water temperature. The water could be near 0ºC or 3ºC or 5ºC or even higher.

The dramatic visuals of swimsuit-only athletes, protected by only their own hardened bioprene, swimming in an alpine lake with snow-capped mountains and a frozen shoreline are the key elements for great competition, great entertainment, and great drama in front of a global television audience.

With a dark sheen to a lake, outlined by snow-tipped shorelines, sitting in a valley enveloped by a stunning mountain range will look extremely cold at 0ºC or 3ºC or 5ºC or even higher. The drama would be intense and the media would be riveted.

Furthermore, there are now hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes who can swim 1 km safely and competitively in water around 5ºC and certainly thousands of athletes who can swim safely and competitively in water under 10ºC. A course along the shoreline of a lake, perhaps 250 meters in length so the swimmers can compete head-to-head in front of grandstands and television cameras. In some ways, we believe the natural ambiance of a course between turn buoys is more attractive than a 25m pool carved out ice. Cameras and the human eye want to watch athletes compete within the panoramic view of the mountaintops in the background and the snow-topped trees along the course, enhanced by a deep blue of the lake.

This human drama of fighting off hypothermia within a natural environment is quite consistent with the ambiance of the Winter Olympics sports that require a sense of daring that the Summer Olympic sports do not.

Winter Olympic sports – from luge and downhill skiing to snowboarding and ski jumping – have inherent elements of danger and risk that Summer Olympic sports simply do not. Think of the freestyle skiing vs. track or short track speed skating vs. pool swimming. The Summer Olympics have nothing like the 70m ski jump or the skeleton run where slip-up can result in horrific accidents.

But Winter Olympic athletes understand, calculate, and manage risks well and with an athleticism that inspires, entertains and astounds us. And so do extreme swimmers.

Extreme swimmers, almost without exception, have a fascinating mindset and an impressive physique that are well-suited to generating interest from fans of every age and background. Their exploits surprise scientists and create awe among spectators. They are often built like wrestlers with the egos of opera singers and the courage of boxers.

Among these extreme swimmers, there are many who have swum in water that is unimaginably cold. These are some of the swimmers who have swum in water at, near, or below 0ºC for 1000 meters or longer. It is one of the most impressive lists of athletes we have ever compiled:

1. Andrei Sychev, 2250m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
2. Alexander Brylin, 2200m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
3. Henry Kaarma, 2150m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
4. Andrei Sychev, 2050m at 2011 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
5. Henry Kaarma, 1650m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
6. Ram Barkai, 1750m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
7. Kieron Palframan, 1700m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
8. Ryan Stramrood, 1650m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
9. Lynne Cox, 1600m in Neko Harbor, Antarctica
10. Nikolai Glushkov, 1050m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
11. Natayla Seraya, 1050m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
12. Henry Kaarma, 1050m at 2013 Pirita Open (Tallinn)
13. Jackie Cobell, 1000m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
14. Nuala Moore, 1000m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
15. Elena Guseva, 1000m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)
16. Ram Barkai, 1000m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
17. Ryan Stramrood, 1000m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
18. Kieron Palframan, 1000m at 2012 Russian Winter Swimming Championships (Tyumen, Siberia)
19. Lewis Pugh, 1000m at Petermann Island, Antarctica
20. Lewis Pugh, 1000m at North Pole
21. Henry Kaarma, 1000m at 2011 Pirita Open (Tallinn)
22. Ram Barkai, 1000m in Antarctica
23. Ram Barkai, 1000m in Norway (1)
24. Ram Barkai, 1000m in Norway (2)
25 Natayla Seraya, 1050m at 2013 International Winter Swimming Competition (Murmansk, Russia)

Individuals including Sychev, Brylin, Glushkov, Petshak, Panasyuk, Marina Isaeva, and others have done additional swims.

Additional articles on a potential extreme swim at the Winter Olympics are below:

* Should Extreme Swimming Be In The Olympics?
* Shawn White, Apolo Ohno And Ice Swimming In The Olympics
* The Human Mind Is A Powerful Thing In The Open Water
* Do Ice Swimmers Have Bigger Brains?
* Should Ice Swimming Be In The Olympics? Yes!
* If Ice Swimming Were In The Olympics, What Are The Rules?

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association