Great British Olympic open water swimming star Jack Burnell was the guest starter for 13 waves of swimmers under way in front of a packed crowd of swimmers and spectators.
Temperatures in the water reached 18°C and welcomed Burnell who swam for the first time since the Rio Olympics, swimming alongside novices and charity fundraisers.
“To have so many swimmers here today is incredible,” said Burnell. “Mass-participation events such as Swim Serpentine really help raise the profile of the sport and for swimmers of all ages and abilities to come out in their vast numbers today and thoroughly enjoy the experience is so heartening for me to see. There’s been smiling faces everywhere you look.
For me, both today and tomorrow, it’s all about enjoyment. Mid-swim, I took the time to chat to fellow swimmers and whilst they were exhausted, they were elated at the same time and I’m sure every one of the spectators wanted to jump in as well. To be here today in this scenic location in the centre of London with beautiful weather, warm water and a carnival atmosphere is terrific for open water swimming. Today could mark a historic event that you can really see growing.”
Guy Davis, a member of the Serpentine Swimming Club, was the first finisher at Swim Serpentine. The 57-year-old former Londoner, who now lives in New Hampshire, emerged from the water to huge cheers from the grandstand as he completed the one-mile swim in 21:13.
“The fact that there were 4,000 entries for the very first event really illustrates how fantastic the appetite is for open water swimming,” Davis said. “It’s apparent that there’s been an explosion of interest and with London Marathon Events bringing this event to the London 2012 venue, it’s a real thrill and you can’t help but want to be a part of it. There are many swimmers here today making a gutsy first step in open water, so providing such a experience really helps add momentum, which is so exciting.
This is the perfect model, hugely accessible for swimmers, where you combine a fabulous city venue and natural viewing points for eager spectators, so I really hope this becomes a permanent fixture in the open water swimming calendar. Swim Serpentine suggests there’s an incredible future for open water swimming both in the UK and globally.”
25-year-old London student Lara Langston was the first woman to finish, coming home third in the first wave in 23:51. “I hadn’t planned to go as fast, but it’s hard not to get swept up in the event. It’s my first event at this distance and it was amazing taking place in such a fantastic atmosphere. I love swimming somewhere which is so open and wild, where you can just continue swimming, a welcome change of scenery from the pool.”
BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin swam in the last wave of the day, The 48-year-old triathlete who represented Great Britain at the World Triathlon Championships said, “I love open water swimming. There’s nothing more exhilarating than swimming out in the open water. It can be beautiful, extreme and is such a fantastic thing to do, just like today has proved, surrounded by a beautiful view. Whatever level you are swimming at, whether doing breaststroke the whole way or stopping for a rest every now and then, everyone taking part was really up for it, having a great time with the aim of having fun, which everyone did.”
For more information, visit the Swim Serpentine here.
Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association