BEIJING PICTURE: Swimmers dive into an icy lake near the Olympics

BEIJING (AP) – Sixty-year-old Chen Jieu dived into the muddy waters of Lake Huhai, partially covered by a layer of ice and snow. Snowflakes were falling, and she was wearing an ordinary red swimsuit with open arms and legs. It was 21 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 degrees Celsius).

As the Winter Olympics are held a short distance inside the bubble, Beijing residents enjoy their traditional winter games near a lake located in the Xicheng area.

“In fact, anyone can do it, anyone will be cold,” said Chen, who said their ice swimming should also be considered an event of the Winter Olympics. “As you become more and more involved in winter swimming, you will feel that you can overcome the cold.”

When she got out of the water, she shone. She then grabbed the hand of the young boy who was watching her swim. “Oh so cold!” He shouted.

The age of swimmers from the Beijing Houhai Happy Winter Swimming Team is 20 to 90 years. Some come every day, rain or radiance, smog or clear skies. In winter, many curious people come to them, and their presence has become an oddity of the city, even if the old buildings of the hutongs were aligned under the new, taller apartment buildings.

“I go into the water every day, all four seasons,” said Han Liyuan, a 72-year-old resident of Beijing. Khan appears to have been swimming in the lake for eight years.

It’s not for the faint of heart, Khan said. When he first dives, he can’t breathe right away. His body has to adapt to the shock.

In icy water they swim short. Even just one or two minutes at a time.

But since he continued to swim for years, he learned to fight the cold. And his physical health improved.

“Now when we talk about walking, I can compete with a 20- or 30-year-old, say, walking fifteen miles without rest.”


Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang and Beijing researcher Chen Xi contributed to the report. Associated Press writer Huizhong Wu of Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.

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