Winning double gold at the Ice Swimming World Championships

  • Posted on February 6, 2023
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Winning double gold at the Ice Swimming World Championships

The International Ice Swimming Association hosted their fifth World Championship in Samoéns, France, and I’m proud to say I represented Team Great Britain in the 100m and 50m breaststroke swim events. I was among more than 400 swimmers from over 35 nations participating in the races in sub-5°C temperatures, wearing only a standard swimsuit, hat and goggles. It’s very cold.

When I'm racing, my breaststroke speed is around the same as my freestyle over 100m. The problem is that swimming at speed in the cold water saps your energy. I have found around 70m into a swim, my body gets so cold that it goes into survival mode and can’t produce any more power, and at that point, my stroke is just about moving in a breaststroke style and not being able to pull myself firmly through the water.

So, with my 70m cut point for energy, I knew the two swims would be very different; the 100m was a long stroke and hard kicking to keep a long stride in the water and save some energy for the end of the swim. In comparison, the 50m breaststroke was flat out all the way.

When I mentioned to my superiors at Avanade that I was taking part in the World Ice Championships, I thought I'd ask to see if they would like to support me in my first Team GB competition. They said I was crazy, and everyone shivers at the fact of swimming in Ice Cold water for fun, but they were also happy to sponsor me in the race. Going outside swimming in the winter can be challenging, but working from home has also enabled me to pop to the lake to train during the week.

Given the sponsorship, I was especially #AvanadeProud to win gold in both my races. In the 100m, I hit a personal best time of 1 min, 32.75 seconds, and I completed the 50m in 38.31 seconds, just 0.03 seconds off the world record for my age group of 55-59. Though I was gnashing my teeth (which have now stopped chattering) at missing the world record, I’m delighted with the wins. Not bad for cold swimming.

Being up for a challenge and fighting off the competition is something I brought with me from Avanade to the event. I was anxious about the 2°C water temperatures and found I could not sleep the night before. The following day, I headed to the lake and got into the water for a swim, yes, it was cold, but my anxiety soon went away, and the joy of the cold water took over my whole body. From developing a growth mindset at Avanade, I’ve learned that it is often your mind that stops you from moving forward until you make the conscious choice to move forward despite the fear.

I’ve been a keen swimmer since I was 10 and swimming in open water since my teens, when I was a competitive lifesaver in Kent. In 2013, I swam The English Channel, and then realized my passion for swimming was encouraging others to swim in the open waters. This led me to start the charity SwimTayka, which helps disadvantaged children worldwide learn to swim and respect the water around them. The charity now has six programs running in Peru, Brazil, Mozambique, Bali, Jamaica and The Maldives, so far helping more than 8,000 children learn the life skills of swimming. 

If you would like to find out a little more about SwimTayka, and perhaps even join one of our fundraising Channel Relay teams, visit swimtayka.org.

Justin Short

Wow, this is mightily impressive. I feel cold just reading it.

February 10, 2023

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