BRAVE and determined Kate Steels-Fryatt swam through ice water in the Arctic circle to smash a world record.
The 45-year-old competed in the Ice Swimming World Championships in Russia, alongside fellow Hampshire swimmer Rory Fitzgerald.
It was the first Ice Swimming World Championships, and 50 people swam 1km in Semenovskoye’s Lake in Murmansk.
Kate, of Aston Close, Bishop’s Waltham, said: ‘We arrived in Murmansk to a spectacular display of the Northern Lights and were given a traditional Russian welcome of bread and salt by ladies in traditional costume.
‘The following morning a group of us was taken to the lake to test the water. It was breathtakingly cold and the ice was 70cm thick.’
Despite the freezing conditions, the swimmers bravely battled 1km in waters of 5C or less under a set of stringent safety rules. One competitor was rescued after getting into difficulty.
The duo represented Great Britain well with Rory finishing in 14min 22secs, winning his heat and coming fourth overall in the competition. He set a new overall British record and World record for the 50+ age category.
Kate finished in 19mins 30secs placing her sixth and giving her the English record and the world record in the 45+ age category.
Kate, who works for Hampshire County Council, said: ‘The conditions were seriously brutal. There is no dive start. Swimmers climb down a ladder, put their shoulders under the water, endure a moment of gasping before the start horn then head down in the freezing water and push off.
‘It didn’t take too many lengths before the feeling in my hands and feet went and “the claw” set in.
‘Tumble turns are not permitted. All turns are touch turns and touching solid ice at the pool edge to turn was painful.
‘Despite this, I felt good and tried to focus on my stroke. I kept thinking of all the support back home and how privileged I was to have been given this opportunity.’
Following the World Ice Championships, team GB stayed on in Murmansk to compete in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships – a series of short races of 25m and 50m breaststroke and freestyle and a longer event of 450m.
The competition, now in its 10th year, attracts competitors from all over Russia and around 500, representing 50 clubs and cities, had gathered to take part.
I kept thinking of all the support back home and how privileged I was to have been given this opportunity.Kate Steels-Fryatt
Kate won silver in the 50m breaststroke and bronze in the other events while Rory secured gold in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the other sprints.
Team GB, despite being virtually the smallest team of the 17 nations represented, came home with three gold, one silver and six bronze medals and finished second behind Russia on points.