Memory Of The Brain And Body, The Feats Of Henri Kaarma

Memory Of The Brain And Body, The Feats Of Henri Kaarma

At the recent Tyumen Open Winter Swimming Cup in Siberia, Russia in water just above its freezing point – 0.8ºC (33.4ºF) – elite ice swimmer Henri Kaarma of Estonia channeled his inner strengths – both physical and mental – to do what appeared to be the impossible.

The 39-year-old Estonian, nicknamed the Iceman, makes his achievement sound so doable, realistic almost.

I train mostly in the pool and 2-3 times per week in cold water, too. But I do longer swims in cold water only once per 1 or 2 weeks. I have been swimming in cold water for 6 years. But I did the first 1 km cold swim in 3 years ago. It was close to my limit then. My cold tolerance has definitely improved since then. My body ‘remembers’ previous swims and can do more next time.”

What a memory…at 0.8ºC, Kaarma swam 2,400 meters – 1.49 miles in water almost ready to freeze – in 41 minutes 57 seconds.

He explains how he did it. “In the start, I was trying not to go too fast and to stay calm despite initial feeling of cold. During the distance, I just tried to do a controlled swim, to be as economical as possible. I looked ahead after 20 strokes to check how far is the wall and which hand will touch the wall. Also, I remember overtaking Zdeněk by 50 meters for every 250 meters. Closer to the end, I noticed my stroke was getting shorter and it was hard to keep track how much have I already swum. I saw a bunch of people walking with me from one end to another and heard cheering during turns so I concluded that the distance must be pretty solid. I remember someone grabbing my hand, but I thought that it’s too early for stopping and I can swim more. 50 meters later, I thought that will do for today, climbed up the ladder and men carried me to the sauna.”

Scenes from the Tyumen Open Water Swimming Cup including Kaarma’s mind-boggling achievement are shown below:

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones