Courtesy of WOWSA, Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships in Burghausen, Germany.

Henri Kaarma lived up to his nickname, the Ice Machine, at the Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships in Burghausen, Germany.

Remarkably the 42-year-old from Estonia stated, “I was not too cold after the swim.”

And neither apparently was Padraig Mallon.

Mallon finished his ice kilometer in 18 minutes 18 seconds in the 2-3°C (35-37°F) water with the air temperature between -9°C to -11°C. He could have climbed out along the frozen banks of the venue and went to the sauna. But he chose to stay in the water. Why? His uncle, Myles McCourt, was still swimming…slowly.

So Mallon slipped over a lane and swam with his uncle. “I was cold,” he admitted. But he stayed in and swam stroke-for-stroke with McCourt. As McCourt and Mallon swam along the course, the German crowd was cheering wildly for the human touch that was so evident in the water. The German announcer called Mallon in German, A World Champion of the Heart.

But the world champion in the lanes was Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria. The four-time Olympian admitted that today’s race was much better than his first jump in the pool. “It was much better today than yesterday. I am feeling much better.”

In contrast to all the volunteers who were wrapped up warmly in layers of clothing and jackets, the swimmers were literally laid bare to the harsh elements. “At 2°C water and -9°C air temperature, this year’s race was much harder than last year. The water was colder and the cold air made the water feel colder,” described Stoychev.

In the first 200m, Stoychev was behind Conor Turner of Ireland and Rostislav Vitek of Czech Republic. “That initial pace was my limit. I could not continue at that pace. But by the time I reached the 500 meter mark, it was so difficult to continue. Last year, I felt this same feeling later in the race at 800 meters. But this year, my limit was reached in 500 meters.

My hands were very cold throughout the race. I also could not see the wall at the end of the race. I felt my triceps tighten up and I could not push at the end of my stroke
.”

But he certainly pushed enough, going out in 6 minutes flat and coming back in the second half in 6:15 to beat the defending champion and local hero Christof Wandratsch. Wandratsch had been busy all week, from helping the organizing committee to coordinating the baking of cakes by his students to raise funds. The pressure and demands on the defending champion were too much to handle against such focused competition.

In the first 200, Vitek sprinted out to the lead with Turner and Fergil Hesterman both right off his hip. Defending champion Wandratsch and Stoychev were a body behind. It is a flat-out race and each of the top men were aiming to medal.

But Stoychev shifted his gears and started to gain on Vitek and Conor as the others slightly faded. By the 500m mark, Stoychev had pulled into the lead and was not slowing down. 500 meters later, Stoychev cruised to the finish to win a world open water championship in both 2°C water in Burghausen and in 31°C water in Shanghai in 2011. “His versatility is unprecedented and I think he has yet to touch his potential in these kinds of conditions,” said Steven Munatones. “Petar and the young guns like Conor Turner, Fergil Hesterman of the Netherlands, and Petr Slajs of the Czech Republic are really going to push the envelope as to what is possible in near-frozen conditions. It is exciting times in this emerging niche.”

But Stoychev has set the new standard. He established an ice kilometer world record of 12:15.87, breaking his old world record of 12:28 set in the same venue last year.

As Stoychev and his fellow competitors were busy rewarming in the dry and wet saunas near poolside and the crowds were filing out of the venue, the venue was literally starting to freeze over.



Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships Men’s Results:
1. Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria) 12:15.87 [world record and world championship record]
2. Conor Turner (Ireland) 12:42.98
3. Rostislav Vitek (Czech Republic) 12:45.54
4. Fergil Hesterman (Netherlands) 13:08.10
5. Christof Wandratsch (Germany) 13:16.08
6. Petr Šlajs (Czech Republic) 13:23.87
7. Marcus Reineke (Germany) 13:38.11
8. Tobias Wybierek (Germany) 13:48.30
9. Henri Kaarma (Estonia) 14:02.26
10. Stefan Runge (Germany) 14:18
11. Ryan Stramrood (South Africa) 14:24.92
12. Rory Fitzgerald (Great Britain) 14:28.31
13. Macin Trudnowski (Poland) 14:42.27
14. Jochen Aumuller (Germany) 14:53.79
15. Herman van der Westhuizen (South Africa) 14:59.97
16. Denis Colombe (France) 15:07.13
17. Simon Franke (Germany) 15:24.06
18. Piotr Biankowski (Poland) 15:25.30
19. Tobias Hirst (Great Britain) 15:36.21
20. Jacques Tuset (France) 15:50.02
21. John Ryan (Ireland) 15:51.53
22. Jack Boyle (Ireland) 15:58.88
23. Richard Nyargy (Slovakia) 16:11.67
24. Hamza Bakircioglu (Turkey) 16:16.29
25. Clinto le Sueur (South Africa) 16:20.98
26. Jakub Valnicek (Czech Republic) 16:29.61
27. Ivan Lewis (Great Britain) 16:31.40
28. Dezider Pek (Slovakia) 16:41.35
29. Florian Battermann (Germany) 16:48.45
30. Ram Barkai (South Africa) 16:58.85
31. Patrick Corcoran (Ireland) 17:06.22
32. Jacobus Guijt (Netherlands) 17:09.70
33. Martin Kuchenmeister (Germany) 17:31.74
34. Thomas O’Hagan (Ireland) 17:33.01
35. Stefan Jung (Germany) 17:37.90
36. Paddy Bond (Ireland) 17:49.51
37. Philippe Fort (France) 17:52.74
38. Werner Whelpton (South Africa) 18:06.98
39. Shaun Hales (Great Britain) 18:07.18
40. Pádraig Mallon (Ireland) 18:18.33
41. Leszek Naziemiec (Poland) 18:20.66
42. Andrey Zamyslov (Russia) 18:22.77
43. Josef Koberl (Austria) 18:58.32
44. Uli Munz (Germany) 18:59.40
45. Jonathan Coe (Great Britain) 19:08.91
46. Franz Herbst (Germany) 19:20.67
47. Radomir Suchopa (Czech Republic) 19:42.06
48. Petr Mihola (Czech Republic) 19:44.09
49. Ger Kennedy (Ireland) 19:44.87
50. Pearse Ryan (Ireland) 20:06.52
51. Lukasz Tkacs (Poland) 20:08.45
52. Marek Grzywa (Poland) 20:46.75
53. Nikolay Petshak (Russia) 21:03.34
54. Alexandre Fuzeau (France) 21:18.11
55. Noel Grimes (Ireland) 22:25.91
56. Mervyn Bremner (South Africa) 22:37.17
57. Enzo Favoino (Italy) 23:14.35
58. Robert Lenzbauer (Austria) 23:46.11
59. Myles McCourt (Ireland) 24:43.96
60. Andreas Bergler (Germany) 26:32.04

Video of the men’s 1000m ice kilometer race is shown here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association