EXPLAINED: What do France's ice swimming world championships involve?

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EXPLAINED: What do France's ice swimming world championships involve?
Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP

The world championships of the sport of ice swimming get underway in France this week - so what does this involve and can you go and watch?



The world championships this year are held in Samoëns, a ski resort and pretty tourist town in the Haute-Savoie département of France - situated in the Alps along the Swiss border.

The swimming will be in the Lac aux Dames, which for the occasion will host a 25m outdoor pool.


The contest begins on Thursday, January 12th and runs until Sunday, January 15th.



Around 500 competitors are expected, representing 42 nations.


So what does the sport of ice swimming actually involve?  Well, as the name suggests, it's swimming in cold water - the key details are that the water must be no more than 5C and wetsuits or neoprene suits are forbidden, competitors wear the same swimsuits/trunks as competitors in standard swimming events and are not permitted to grease themselves as, for example, Channel swimmers do. 

Despite the name, ice is not actually essential for ice-swimming events to take place.

The events are races ranging from 50m to 1,000m metres in freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly - broadly the same as indoor swimming events. 

Ice swimming has been growing in popularity since the Millennium, and the International Ice Swimming Association was created in 2009 to organise world championship events. Entrants must be IISA-registered and have completed qualifying events.

Can I go and watch?

Not only is the event in Samoëns open to spectators, it's free. Over the course of the four-day event there will be entertainments and food and drink on site, as well as the competitions. Full details HERE

The Lac aux Dames covers an area of 10 hectares, so it's also great for walking and once you've watched the swimming you can explore the lively bars and restaurants of Samoëns, a town popular with tourists in both winter and summer. It's also within easy travel distance of the pistes if you want to snowboard or ski. 



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