SA women score gold at Russian Polar Olympics


Words & Photo: Leap Communications

Two SA women have scooped gold medals at a recent icy international winter swimming competition in Russia.

The two-day event took place in a frozen lake outside Tyumen, Murmansk, where organisers cut two 25m pools in the ice with two lanes each in a water temperature of around 0°C.

Cape Town open water swimmers Monika Hayes (50) and Zani Muller (27) where invited by The Department of Physical Culture and Sport of Murmansk, Russia, to compete in the International Winter Swimming Competition, also dubbed the “Polar Olympics”.

The 230 competitors wore only Speedo costumes, goggles and caps and were totally exposed to the icy water.

Muller took gold for her individual 450m endurance race in 8m30s. Haynes then also went on to take gold for her 450m endurance race in a time of 6m50s – also the fastest recorded time for all female swimmers.

The two have been training in the Cape’s cold Atlantic Ocean while I&J ice baths are an integral part of their training.

Muller, who is preparing for an English Channel crossing in September 2014, said: “One of my highlights was meeting UK ice swimmer Jackie Cobell, 56, who holds the record for the longest timed English Channel Swim in history - 28h44m. When I asked her for tips for my upcoming English Channel swim, she simply said ‘just don't stop until you get there, love’." 

Hayes said it had been a childhood dream to visit Russia. “I never thought it would be to compete in an ice swim, but it was a very proud moment for me to represent South Africa”.

Speedo SA Brand President, Stuart Hopwood praised the swimmers, saying: “It’s a phenominal accomplishment for these amazing swimmers. It’s great to see more women taking to extreme swimming and triumphing in this way.”