“Winter swimming is very good for you. We winter swimmers are the healthiest people in the world”, Kirsi Lantto says before she enters the local winter swimmers’ club’s “pool” in the ice-covered Kemijoki river just outside the center of Rovaniemi.
Finland has a long tradition for winter outdoor activities, including swimming. There are 150.000 winter swimmers in Finland. No surprise then that it was Finland that hosted the first Winter Swimming World Championship in 2000. The games have since then been arranged in seven other places, including London, Slovenia and Latvia.
In the end of March 1200 participants from 33 different countries gather in Rovaniemi for the 2014 Winter Swimming World Championship.
The largest delegation comes from the hosting country, with 520 participants. Russia also has its fair share of “walruses” and will have 251 participants in the championships. The third and fourth largest delegations come from United Kingdom and Germany. There are also participants from non-wintery countries like Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria.
The participants will compete in the traditional winter swimming races 25 meter breaststroke, 25 meter freestyle and 50 meter freestyle, as well as a 450 meter endurance swim and relays. The races will take place in a 25 meter long pool that will be made in the ice of the river Kemijoki.