Team Ireland Enjoyed Overwhelming Success at the IISA 5th World Championship

Team Ireland Enjoyed Overwhelming Success at the IISA 5th World Championship

Courtesy of Jacqueline McClelland of Infinity Channel Swimming and Piloting Services and a certified IISA Official Observer who served as the IISA Ireland team manager at the IISA 5th World Championship in Samoëns, France.

The Irish: they smile broadly, they are genuinely friendly and passionately supportive of each other and their colleagues throughout the swimming community. They are hardened, acclimated to rough cold waters. They travel well, they compete intensely. And they always come back for more.

Jacqueline McClelland of Infinity Channel Swimming and Piloting Services and a certified IISA Official Observer explains, “IISA Ireland is a growing community that is an integral part of the International Ice Swimming Association global network. The Irish had previously competed in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th IISA World Championships that were hosted in Ireland, Murmansk, Germany, and Poland. So a rambunctious team of 34 athletes at the IISA 5th World Championship in Samoëns was to be expected at the picturesque village in the Alps at 1000m altitude.

The ice swimmers from around the world were greeted by a 25m pool with lane lines, a timing system, specialty wooden start and turn structures with plenty of signage and safety personnel, including safety divers in drysuits, IISA officials, and seconds, was created in Lac aux Dames with an average water temperature of 3.7°C.

McClelland continued, “Qualification for these championships required rigorous training with personal and water safety of paramount importance. Cold water swimming at this level requires diligence and team support. Each swimmer representing IISA Ireland availed of their lakes, seas rivers, and homemade ice baths to acclimatize to the below 5°C water temperate rule with ongoing pool training sessions to ensure speed and agility, and peak performances. Each person undertakes strict medical, ECG, fitness, and swim qualifiers to reach the standard for entry.

While the races included various swim distances in all four swim strokes under FINA rules with the signature event being the 1000m Ice Kilometer that had a cut-off time of 22 minutes.

McClelland said, “Challenging body and mind, day one revealed an ice glaze pool where specialist divers broke the ice in the pool to pave the way for the first swim heats. The air temperature was 1°C and the water temperature was 3.7°C. The anticipation was palpable. Awaiting the starter’s orders of ‘take off your clothes’ and ‘enter the water’, each participant awaited the beep to begin their race.

By nature of the sport, cold is the enemy and speed is your friend. A swimmer’s speed can drop over the distance. Swim speed, stroke rate, and lap times are closely monitored; sometimes, a competitor is stopped for safety reasons. Each swimmer is assigned a ‘second’ a person who knows the swimmer well, can monitor their progress, and assist post-swim with the journey to the recovery tents for rewarming. Post-swim, a controlled rewarming takes place with the use of heated bubble tents, saunas, and jacuzzi to ensure the core temperature increases slowly and after drop effect is minimized.

The atmosphere was always electric during the welcome parade, during each event, and at race headquarters. The IISA Ireland team met many friends and forged new friendships with a common bond. The reception from the people of Samoëns was heartfelt. The camaraderie among the Irish team was reflected throughout the athlete’s village, with swimmers/competitors wishing each other well. True to the IISA International slogan: one sport global friendship.

The IISA Ireland Team performed with fortitude, drive, style, joy, and delight. Each swimmer and support crew maintains the fun aspect. With any competition, there are highs and lows and emotions aplenty, the few days were a rollercoaster that seemed to last forever. Team leads Brian Dillon, William Murphy, Sarah O’Malley Daly, and Martin McDevitt coordinated event schedules, relays, and communications with race organizers.

IISA Ireland achieved numerous age group podium places boasting two of the youngest competitors Oisín O’Sullivan and Alex Stewart, representation in the para swimmer section with Nicola Doran, and a world record for Grace McLaughlin.

The record of their age group achievements included:

Personal best records were aplenty for a proud IISA Ireland team with IISA President Ram Barkai congratulating each of the team members’ successes. Ger Kennedy, an Ice Sevens achiever, and Ian Conroy of Wild Water Armagh were announced as inductees to the Ice Swimming Hall of Fame for their contribution to the sport.

Ice swimming under IISA rules is in its infancy and is an emerging extreme sport. Ireland’s waterways and its people’s passion for swimming is a pedestal for the sport to grow, providing an opportunity to compete on the world’s stage. The IISA Ireland team and IISA Ireland board are thankful to IISA France for the fantastic experience at Samoëns, filled with so many opportunities.

Liz Ryan completes 1000m at the 5th Ice Swimming World Championship Samoëns 2023
Deirdre Cross, 78, with her silver medal at the IISA 5th World Championship

Photos courtesy of Deirdre Power. Report courtesy of Jacqueline McClelland, IISA Ireland team manager.

Copyright © 2008 – 2023 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones