Cold Water Swimming,  NEWS

IISA 5th World Championships: Team GB Report

The fifth world championships of the International Ice Swimming Association took place in Samoëns, France, between 12 and 15 January 2023

The International Ice Swimming Association held their first World Championships in 2015 in Murmansk, Russia. In that Championship, 51 swimmers, representing 18 nations competed in the flagship 1,000m race with 2 swimmers selected to represent Great Britain. In subsequent years, the championships have grown rapidly and in January 2023 the 5th Ice Swimming World Championships were held with almost 500 competitors representing 42 nations.

Team GB at the IISA World Championships gathered on a staircase for a team picture
Image (c) Emily Smailes

IISA has from the outset promoted the 1,000m ice swim as their flagship event and has maintained a record book since 2014. Indeed, in the inaugural 2015 Championships, it was the only event. Subsequently, 500m and 100m freestyle and 100m breaststroke events were introduced into the record books in 2018 along with the 4 x 250m country relay, with one team fielded by each nation. In 2022, a 250m individual freestyle race was introduced into the record books along with 100m individual medley (IM) and, more recently, a full suite of 100m and 50m races in all strokes have been added. At the 2023 World Championships in Samoens, competitors were able to take part in 12 individual events, the country relay, the 4 x 50m freestyle and medley relays.

Great Britain fielded a team of 45 experienced ice swimmers along with the invaluable support of a non-swimming team manager, Nigel Robertson, who ensured everyone was at the right place at the right time. Not only did he need to whip the swimmers their respective heats, but also ‘seconds’, who were required for the longer events. Additionally, swimmers had to present themselves for a medical check-up before being passed fit to swim in the 3-degree water.

The competition opened with the 1,000m. Team GB secured entries for 17 swimmers. In a tightly contested event, Michelle Lane finished 4th overall lady in a time of 14m22s and Philip Duma was 8th overall in the men’s competition in an impressive time of 13m08s. The team secured 12 age group podium positions, 4 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze. And one swimmer, Rory Fitzgerald, achieved an age group world record in this event, in the 65 – 69 age group with a time of 15m14s.

Team GB performed equally well in the 500m race with 14 entries securing 10 podium positions, including 5 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze. Three further age group world records were achieved. Laura Nesbitt finished 3rd place overall in a time of 6m48s and claimed gold in the 30-34 age group. Rory Fitzgerald won the 65 – 69 age group in a time of 7m03s, as did Cathy Munro in the 60 – 65 age group in a time of 7m48s.

Laura Nesbitt deserves particular mention as she won three further overall podium positions in the 250m (silver), 100m (bronze) and 50m freestyle (silver).

The team continued to perform well in the shorter distances, securing a total of 102 age group podium positions and a further 2 podium positions in the para category. Twelve of the team went on to set a 28 age group world records, doing particularly well in the recently added events such as the 250m freestyle. The table below shows the full results of Team GB.

The other team members who competed in the championships were: Heidi Brice; Alistair Bell; Sarah Taylor; Debbie Wayman; Jacqui Hargrave; Warren Phelops; Lara Fawcett, Lorraine McGowan and Emily Smailes.

Main image: Team GB on the podium by Nigel Robertson

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