Cal Commit Keaton Jones Competing at Ice Swimming World Championships in France

by Riley Overend 15

January 09th, 2023 International, National, News

Cal commit Keaton Jones will find out this week if he really has ice in his veins.

The 18-year-old Higley High School senior from Arizona is headed to the 5th International Ice Swimming World Championships from Thursday through Sunday in Samoëns, France. Jones is slated to swim five events — the 50-meter freestyle, 100 free, 50 back, 100 back, and 100 fly — in sub-40 degree temperatures with only a bathing suit, cap, and goggles allowed.

Although it’s his first time taking on this extreme sport and his first time competing internationally, Jones has high aspirations.

“I’m hoping to win a few races and possibly break a few world records,” said Jones, who took bronze in the 200 back at Junior Pan Pacs last August. “I feel like I’m as prepared as I can be and I’m really excited to not only visit France for the first time, but hopefully perform and represent Team USA well.”

No Americans currently hold any world records or world junior records in ice swimming, nor are any ranked within the top three. Historically, the top nations are Germany, Poland, France, and Ireland.

Beginning today, Jan. 9, Jones and nearly 500 other swimmers from more than 40 nations will descend upon the tiny commune of Samoëns, which has a population of fewer than 3,000 residents. It’s the biggest World Championships since the inception of the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) in 2009.

​​“We expect to see many world records shattered in this event,” said Petar Stoychev, a four-time Olympian and current IISA board member. “We have many new fast swimmers. The 1000 freestyle final will be at Olympic level.”

Team USA features 22 swimmers ranging in age from 15 to 76, including multiple ice milers, English Channel, and Triple Crown (English Channel, Catalina Channel, and Manhattan Island Marathon) swimmers.

Jones’ younger sister, Ezmee, is also on the squad along with their Swim Neptune club coach Joe Zemaitis, who said the siblings are the two fastest members of Team USA. Zemaitis has more experience with the extreme sport, having completed his first ice mile in 2019. Recently, he’s been working to grow ice swimming nationally as the chairman of IISA USA with the goal of hopefully gaining Olympic inclusion in the future. Zemaitis is entering some longer events such as the 500 and 1000 free.

After practicing in his backyard pool for the last month, Jones visited Flagstaff for three days of altitude training this past weekend. The water temperature in his backyard pool is a few degrees warmer than it will be at the World Championships, but Zemaitis also owns a cold-plunge freezer that sits at 35 degrees.

“Luckily Arizona has had a colder winter and my pool at home is in the 40s,” Jones said. “I spend three minutes a day, twice a day, swimming in my backyard pool. In this instance, it is not a concern about the actual swimming, but instead is about controlling one’s breath and trying to minimize the gasp reflex.”

Ice swimming involves a few twists on typical pool swimming rules.

The “pool” at the World Championships is often man-made in a frozen lake with individual ladders for each athlete. The meet still uses electronic timing and has all the trappings of a world championship event. But each racer begins in the water with one hand on the wall and swimmers must break the surface before five meters. Every turn is an open turn as flip turns risk orientation loss and lightheadedness.

Jones’ preparation involved being medically cleared, a process that included an electrocardiogram, which records the electric signal from the heart to check for different conditions. As interest in cold water immersion has grown during COVID-19 lockdowns, the IIISA has implemented more rigorous pre-swim medicals and a tighter qualification process. More info about IISA’s safety protocol is available here.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

That’s one way to swim fast… the colder the water, the faster I go, the quicker I can get out! Of course, my start off the blocks might take several minutes if I even jump.

1 year ago

I’m sorry there a 1000 for this? Ouch.

Rvgeny eylov
1 year ago

Could have a few shrivelling issues

1 year ago

I hope us Americans start holding more competitions and competing at Ice Swimming. It’s a fun sport

Chanandler Bong
1 year ago


Hook em
1 year ago

“Swim Neptune club coach Joe Zemaitis, who said the siblings are the two fastest members of Team USA.” Bold. Bold. Bold.

Reply to  Hook em
1 year ago

Pretty sure he means on the ICE swimming team

Swimmin in the South
1 year ago

Records for this are hard to find. Could only find the ICE mile (20:29 and 21:33 male/female respectively).

Coach Tom
Reply to  Swimmin in the South
1 year ago

The only way I’m swimming that long in ice-cold water is if a shipwreck is involved.

This seems like a fun opportunity for him though — best of luck!

tea rex
Reply to  Coach Tom
1 year ago

The only way I’m swimming that long in ice-cold water is if a shipwreck is involved, and I can’t push Rose off that door.

Reply to  tea rex
1 year ago

It’s a big door. Just share the door.

Reply to  Swimmer Brent
1 year ago

Thank you I am inclined to believe some of these WR’s are going to go down may have overlooked but did not see any big name swimmers on that list there but that men’s 50 fly record out of all of them might be the most impressive.

Reply to  Swimmer Brent
1 year ago

The mixed events are funny, with some of the relays having 3 male swimmers/1 female swimmer and others 2/2.

❤️ ice swimming
Reply to  FST
1 year ago

The mixed relays are required to have at minimum one male and one female. The rest of the makeup of the relay is up to the team.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »