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County Down Swimmer Breaks Ice Swimming World Record

20th January 2023
Northern Ireland ice swimmer Grace McLaughlin
Northern Ireland ice swimmer Grace McLaughlin

A County Down swimmer has broken a world record and claimed two gold medals at the ice swimming world championships, reports The Belfast Telegraph.

Grace McLaughlin from Bangor defied freezing temperatures to triumph at the International Ice Swimming Association’s (IISA) fifth world championship held in Samoens, a ski resort and summer holiday destination in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It was held over four days from 12th till 15th January.

Ice Swimming is swimming in water temperature of 5.0C / 41.0F unassisted, with a silicon cap, pair of goggles and standard swimming costume. Grace swam in temperatures below 4C in two individual races — a 1k event on the first day and another 500m stretch the next day. The final day was a relay team event.

In these individual icy plunges, she won two gold medals in the 50-54 age category, one in the 1k and another in the 500m in which she also broke the world record in seven minutes and 38 seconds. Speaking tonight, Grace was delighted at her achievements;” I was well pleased — shocked and pleased. I am just delighted that I was even able to get that. I didn’t expect that I would go as fast as I did, because we are swimming at altitude here. We are also swimming in very cold temperatures, so your performance will be much slower than what you would be at warmer temperatures”.

County Down swimmer Grace McLaughlin courtesy Belfast TelegraphCounty Down swimmer Grace McLaughlin courtesy Belfast Telegraph

Grace has many years experience as a swimmer, having been a member and coach in Bangor Swimming Club for 19 years and also very much involved in getting open water swimming started in the North Down area. The first venture was in Groomsport 17 years ago, which became so popular they moved to Ballyholme Yacht Club near Bangor and began swimming sessions on a Monday night during the summer.

Having already completed two North Channel crossings, the first in June 2021 when four open-water swimmers became the first all-female relay team to swim the treacherous the Dál Riata Channel, the stretch of the North Channel between the Mull of Kintyre and the County Antrim coastline. In fact, due to the strong tides the actual distance covered was 21.9 miles to Ballycastle on the Causeway Coast. In 2022 Grace was part of another relay to swim from Donaghadee on the North Down coast to Portpatrick on the Mull of Kintyre.

Her next challenge is to do this year a solo crossing of the North Channel sometime between July 23rd and 30th.

More on The Belfast Telegraph story here

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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