The 48th Wuhan Yangtze River Crossing Festival: The City that Celebrates Open Water Swimming

The 48th Wuhan Yangtze River Crossing Festival: The City that Celebrates Open Water Swimming

The Wuhan International Yangtze River Crossing Festival is an annual sports event held in Wuhan, central China, celebrating the city’s love for open-water swimming. The city, located at the confluence of the Yangtze River and its longest tributary, the Han River, is home to 165 rivers and 166 lakes. These abundant water resources have fostered a deep-seated passion for swimming among the city’s inhabitants.

The festival, now in its 48th year, is one of the world’s most challenging swim events. The Yangtze River’s average width in the Wuhan section is 1.7 kilometers, and the potential for wind, rapids, and whirlpools adds to the challenge. Despite these conditions, the event attracts a large number of participants each year, reflecting the determined spirit of the Wuhan population.

The 48th Wuhan Yangtze River Crossing Festival, held on July 16, 2023, was organized by the Municipal Sports Bureau, Wuhan Water Affairs Bureau, and Wuhan Cultural Tourism Group, with support from Wuhan Rural Commercial Bank. The festival comprised an individual crossing the Yangtze River challenge and a mass team crossing the Yangtze River. The individual challenge covered a distance of about 1,800 meters, while the team races, which returned after a three-year hiatus, saw 28 teams swim 6 kilometers across the Yangtze River.

A total of 153 athletes registered for the competition, with 105 accepted through public registration. The organizing committee extended special invitations to 48 athletes from various teams, including the Hubei Provincial Team, Wuhan City Team, Liaoning Provincial Team, Shaanxi Provincial Team, and a swimming master from the UK. Of the 75 athletes who participated in the individual race, 66 successfully crossed the finish line.

In the men’s category, Wang Baojun from the Hubei team emerged as the champion, completing the race in 12 minutes, 35 seconds, and 23 milliseconds. Xu Haibo from the Wuhan team was the runner-up, and Chen Xinkun from the Hubei team secured third place.

In the women’s category, Huang Ziqi from the Hubei team clinched the championship with a time of 14 minutes and 3 seconds. Li Xinxuan from the Hubei team won second place, and Xia Zixuan from the Wuhan team took third place.

In addition to the individual races, the festival also featured a mass formation crossing the Yangtze River. A total of 1,832 swimmers formed 28 formations, launching from Mingkou Wharf, No. 1, Hanyangmen, Wuchang, and crossing to Sanyang Square on the Hankou River Beach, covering a distance of about 6,000 meters.

The festival has become one of the most influential mass activities in the city over its 48-year history. In recent years, the festival’s organizing committee has made efforts to engage younger generations, encouraging citizens under 35 to partake in the six-kilometer public swimming event in the Yangtze River. This initiative has seen some success, with the youngest participant in 2023 being 14-year-old Liu Enze. The champions of the 2023 festival were also young swimmers – Huang Ziqi, a 15-year-old girl, and Wang Baojun, a 17-year-old boy.

Yao Qin’an, director of Wuhan’s social sports instruction center, said, “Many people in Wuhan swim in the Yangtze River because they want to challenge nature, endure tough conditions and build their resilience. To some extent, the Wuhan population’s penchant for crossing the Yangtze reflects the city’s determined spirit.”

Photo credits: Wuhan Plus Facebook and Beijing Review Facebook