IISA Ireland compete at the 5th International Ice Swimming World Championships

IISA Ireland at the 5th International Ice Swimming World Championships in Samoëns, France.

IISA Ireland is a growing extreme sports group country part of the IISA family and was represented by 34 athletes for the 5th International Ice Swimming World Champions. Previous world championships have been hosted in Ireland, Murmansk, Germany, and Poland with Ireland represented at each of the games. 2023 chosen location was Samoëns, France. This picturesque village in the Alps region specifically a ski resort at an altitude of 1000m welcomed over 500 swimmers from across the globe. A pool was created in Lac aux Dames with an average water temperature of 3.7 Celsius.

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 degrees Celsius 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.

The swim events are hosted over four days with various swim distances in all four swim strokes freestyle, back crawl, butterfly, and breaststroke under FINA rules. The Blue-ribbon event is 1000m with a cut-off time of 22 minutes.

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 ‘take off your clothes’ and ‘enter the water’ each participant was prepared to wear a standard swimsuit, a safety belt, a silicon hat, and goggles awaiting the beep to begin.

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 HQ. 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.

Liz Ryan: 2 Gold 1 Silver
Grace McLaughlin: 2 Gold & 1 World Record
Dominic Mudge: 1 Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze
Deirdre Cross: 2 Silver 1 Bronze
Brenda Cosgrove: 3 Bronze
Jean Sparling: 2 Bronze
Alex Stewart: 1 Silver
Oisín O Sullivan: 1 Bronze
Ger Purcell: 1 Bronze
Sarah O Malley Daly: 1 Bronze
Patricia Heffernan: 1 Bronze
Rae Doyle: 1 Bronze Kevin McHugh: 1 Bronze

Para Swimmers Category

Nicola Doran: 3 Gold 3 Silver

Editor: Jacqueline McClelland (IISA Ireland Team Manager)
Photo Credit: Deirdre Power