Courtesy of WOWSA in Lapland Lake Semenovskoye, Russia.

Great athletes ride huge towering waves around the world risking death of every ride over 50 feet. Great athletes dive down to the depths that crush their lungs to the size of small fruit. Great athletes swim mind-boggling long distances despite the threat of jellyfish, sharks, venomous fish and orcas.

All these achievements are captured by GoPro cameras, posted on YouTube, and touted by enthusiasts and the general public. Watching these athletes pursue their dreams and achieve their goals is inspirational and enlightening.

But these individuals are generally chiseled human specimens: men with broad shoulders funneling down to tapered waists and women with envious proportions and model-looking physiques.

Swimming in water approaching 0°C (32°F) in Lapland Lake Semenovskoye is similarly – if not, more – impressive. Just as the human body was not meant to surf down waves the size of buildings or dive down to where the light does not shine or swim for over 24 hours, mankind was not meant to swim in freezing waters – and certainly not for upwards to 1000 meters.

But these great athlete do it: willingly and enjoyably. Swimmers from around the world are joining the ranks of formal cold water swimming competitions in increasing numbers, from Millennials to Baby Boomers. And they look like the people who you go to school with, the people who you work with, the people who are your neighbors.

That is, the chiseled physiques of the surfing, free diving and ultra-marathon swimming world are replaced by the average.

This makes the ice swimmers even more impressive.

These great athletes have acclimated themselves both physiologically and psychologically to compete in freezing waters. People like your fellow students, co-workers and neighbors have safety and responsibly demonstrated to the rest of society how far the human body can be pushed. And they have done so in a spirit of sharing and caring for each other, creating a remarkable camaraderie that crosses borders and cultures.

For that, they are remarkable role models.

Television report was filmed at Lapland Lake Semenovskoye in Murmansk, Russia, site of the inaugural International Ice Swimming Championships organized by the International Ice Swimming Association and the 10th annual Russian Ice Swimming Championships on March 20th and 21st.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association