The 10th Winter Swimming World Championships were held from 9th to 12th March in Tyumen, Siberia, Russia, the fifth time that Godalming’s Empress of the Ice has taken part in this biannual competition.
The Russians certainly went to a lot of effort, creating a 10 lane, 25m long pool cut out of the frozen Tura River together with excellent facilities for registration and general socialising in the nearby football stadium complex.
With the air temperature starting around minus 12C in the mornings and creeping up to minus 1C at midday, and water hovering between minus 0.2C and plus 0.3C, these were true cold water swimming conditions. Fears of having to brave Siberian blizzards proved groundless as the swimmers were fortunate enough to have beautiful clear days with bright blue skies and little wind.
Competitors waited for their races in a warm tent near the start, and after the race was over they would grab a hot fruit tea on the way from the pool for the 150m walk back to the changing tent. It was welcoming to visit one of the mobile saunas or the hot tub to warm up and to hand signal pleasantries with other competitors.
Ellery’s first race was on the Wednesday and after seeing her lane fairly heavily covered in “crushed” ice she was pleasantly surprised to take 3rd place as breaststroke is not her forte.
The freestyle races were the following day and this year included the 100m for the first time. This gave Ellery three races – 25, 50 and 100m – from which she won three gold medals. Her forearms and hands were cut by the ice in her first event as the freezing temperatures caused the ice to reform after each “heat”. Swimming three events in one day, having “cut” wrists attended to after each one and warming up took its toll and Ellery was too tired to go to the evening party at the Hot Springs.
Over 1200 swimmers (predominantly Russian) from 42 countries took part and Ellery’s four medals placed her 11th overall in the final medal table, winning the most medals for a swimmer from the United Kingdom. Moreover these three latest titles bring Ellery’s haul to nine World Titles since 2008.