As if swimming 1km in 0.8 degree water wasn’t enough, Rory Fitzgerald decided to linger in Murmansk a further two days to take part in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships.
Immediately following the World Ice Championships (see report here), team GB and all of the other visiting teams stayed on in Murmansk to compete in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships, which took place on 21 and 22 March 2015. Unlike the extremely challenging 1km distance of the Ice Championships, the second event featured a series of shorter races of 25m and 50m breaststroke and freestyle and an endurance event of 450m. The competition, now in its tenth year, attracts competitors from all over Russia and around 500 swimmers, representing some 50 clubs and cities, had gathered to take part.
Both me and my team mate Kate Steels-Fryatt were much more relaxed than we had been for the Ice Kilometre event as the longest event was less than half that distance. However, overnight there had been further heavy snow and the early morning air temperature was recorded at minus 18 degrees. Thankfully the clouds cleared and the competition got underway in bright sunshine.
The shorter distances are not our forte, but we both managed to achieve podium positions in all four of the sprint events, with Kate taking silver in the 50m breaststroke and bronze in the other events whilst I managed to secure gold in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the other sprints.
The final event, late in the afternoon, was the 450m “endurance” event. Kate swam first and had an excellent swim, achieving first place in a time of 7 minutes 42.75s . My swim was not so well executed. Swimming late in the afternoon, I had a setting sun to contend with, which made sighting the end of the pool very difficult. I ran into the lane ropes and managed to swallow a mouthful of the frigid water, something I had been anxious to avoid as it can accelerate the chilling process. My hands, which had not completely recovered from the 1km swim two days earlier, went numb before the halfway point but again the sight of my competition struggling in the adjacent lanes, gave me a boost in the closing stages. I finished in a time of 6 minutes 1.7 seconds, to take my second gold medal of the competition.
Team GB, with three gold, one silver and six bronze medals finished second behind Russia on points, out of the 17 nations represented, in what was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable international ice swimming festival.