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Record hopefuls compete for world winter swimming title

More than 1,200 hardy souls from 34 countries have entered their bid to become this year’s winter swimming world champion. The bone-chilling competition will take place in Rovaniemi, northern Finland on March 20–23.

Image: YLE / Pekka Sipilä

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highest numbers of competitors hail from Finland, followed by neighbouring Russia. But intrepid nationals of other countries also seem to believe they have a chance of ice-swimming their way to super-cool glory. They hail from far-flung and decidedly non-Arctic locations such as Australia, Chile, Thailand and Nigeria.

A sufficiently icy competition pool has been prepared for the event in the Kemi River in downtown Rovaniemi, better known to some as the official home town of Santa Claus.

But the endurance swimming event isn’t all about heated competition – organisers have included a number of non-competitive and show events, and will even distribute a prize for Most Original Swimming Performance.

The ninth edition of the competition kicks off next on Thursday March 20, with a gruelling 450-metre endurance swimming event. It ends with a closing and awards ceremony on Sunday March 23.