We chat to the new world record under-ice swimmer, Cape Town woman Amber Fillary, who swam 90.6m under 40-cm-thick ice in southern Norway. (And is now toying with the idea of a Robben Island!)
Speaking to the CLDSA from Germany, Amber, who grew up in Newlands, and is a former Rustenburg Girls High student, says that although she was incredibly nervous before the swim, everything came right once she got into the one-degree lake water to break her own record.
“I am totally adapted to the cold, so I don’t even get brain freeze anymore. As soon as I get in and start swimming, all my anxiety disappears. Then I am somewhere in my head counting strokes. It was a great swim. I had a lot of air left and I could have done more!”
For this particular record under Guinness World Record rules, Amber could not wear a neck weight, which, she says, affords swimmers a certain extra buoyancy and glide. She says that her first two swims did not go particularly well.
Amber also holds the record for the longest underwater walk, covering some 109.45m in three minutes, 47 seconds. She also holds the free-diving, no fins record of 150m, which would be six lengths of your average gym pool.
Her love of cold water and free diving started in London, where she worked a decade ago as a lifeguard at a double-Olympics-sized outdoor pool, even during winter months. Amber also swam with the Serpentine Swim Club.
Amber trains, when she is in Cape Town, at the Jan van Riebeeck High School in central Cape Town, under coach Allen Stubbs. Having struggled with addiction issues for much of her life, Amber says she has one, simple yet powerful message: “Don’t let depression or addiction get in the way of your life’s goals.
“I have always had that addict’s feeling of never being good enough. But the wonderful people I have met along my way, as well as all the training, allowed me to reach my goal. That was the key. The swim just allowed me to switch off from all the negative thoughts.”
She will be back in Cape Town for some dentist work, and is toying with the idea of a Robben Island crossing, as well as renewing certain acquaintances at the Sunday Hot Chocolate swims.
Cape Town’s very own champion ice swimmer, international environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh sent a congratulatory message, saying it is wonderful to see South Africans pushing boundaries. “There are not many people who can swim 9om underwater in a warm pool, let alone under ice. Huge congratulations, Amber!”
Next time, Amber says, she wants to go further! But for that she will need crowd funding: Crowdfunding link https://makeachamp.com/amberfillary
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