Open Water Swimming in the Winter Olympics?

  1 Mike Lewis | February 20th, 2014 | Featured, Masters, News, Open Water

When most people think of open water swimming the images of a summer lake or warm beach locale often come to mind.  Or perhaps you think of Ous Mellouli‘s big win at the London Olympics. But there are a whole other group of “cold water swimmers” who actually set their sights on hitting the water at temperatures that would make you think they’d be better suited for the Winter Olympics.

Ask most open water swimmers what their threshold is for jumping in the lake, ocean or river without a wetsuit and they’ll thow out numbers like 65, 62, 58, degrees fahrenheit, but for others this is way too warm.  Take, Colin Hill the person who served as the technical operations manager for the 10K venue at the 2012 London Olympics; he’s  one the the driving forces behind Chill Swim - a group based in Great Britain that focuses on training and staging event specifically devoted to cold water swimming.  These folks are hitting the water when the temperatures are the 40’s – WITHOUT WETSUITS.

Another group that we reported on last year was the international team that crossed the Bering Strait.  As Irish swimmer Nuala Moore chronicled, water temps ranged from the upper 30’s to the low 40’s in formidable surf.

One cold water swimming feat that truly stands out  is British Swimmer Lewis Pugh’s  1000 meter swim at the north pole; this one was truly amazing and is chronicled in this TED talk.

Cold water swimmers are undoubtedly a different breed – but they are also well trained.  This is NOT something to be taken on without a lot of preparation and consideration. If you think cold water swimming is something you want to try reach out to experts who know what they’re talking about and learn more – it’s not for everyone.

So although we’re not going to see open water swimming in the Winter Olympics, there’s a group swimmers around the globe that keeps the open water fun going when most swimmers move to the comfort of the heated pool.


  1. Eddie Rowe says:

    I had a conversation with a friend about Winter vs Summer Olympics. I had made two (somewhat obvious) observations: 1) there are an exhaustive number more sports in the Summer Olympics than in the Winter Olympics. 2) Many sports in the winter Olympics aren’t geographically or economically accessible to a majority of Americans, and our showings at the Winter Games typically reflect this. After a couple days’ reflection, she suggested taking the sports from the summer games that are played indoors and moving them to the Winter Games. It kinda makes sense. At the scholastic level, most swimming, wrestling and basketball is done in the winter. Thoughts?

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About Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis is a sports photographer based in La Jolla, California. Mike has been swimming competitively for over 40 years and brings a unique perspective to swim photography.  His work has been featured in print and digital editorial pieces throughout the world.  Mike is also a renowned commercial photographer and …

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