"Hardy fellow" sets new Czech record

13-12-2004

With temperatures around zero degrees Celsius most of us are covered up from head to toe, drinking hot chocolate or mulled wine to keep warm. However, some "hardy" individuals walk around in a T-shirt and shorts and can't wait for their annual winter swim in the Vltava river on January 1st. Training one's body to deal with the cold has become something of a cult in the Czech Republic and the Czech language even has a special name for these "hardy fellows" - they are called: otuzilci. One of them went for a swim this weekend - to set a new record for spending time in freezing cold water.

Petr Kocian, photo: CTKPetr Kocian, photo: CTK The temperature of the water in the river Metuje was just three degrees Celsius and onlookers huddled into their winter coats accepting plastic cups of tea from the organizers as they watched forty-two-year old Petr Kocian wade into the water and swim up and down the river bank, daring onlookers to join him.

Although he went in in a buoyant mood, with every minute you could see it getting harder. The trick was to keep moving but not too much so that he could conserve his energy to keep warm and take an occasional drink of hot tea.

Petr Kocian, photo: CTKPetr Kocian, photo: CTK Thirty minutes and 15 seconds later he was ready to call it a day. Despite years of training, he was so stiff with cold that he had to be helped to walk. "I had promised myself a half hour at least - but the last few minutes were tough - I wasn't sure whether I could stand it" he admitted.

Petr has been training since age 12 and swimming in the winter months is nothing out of the ordinary for him. Dozens of Czechs do it - and claim that it keeps them healthy - but none of them spend more that a quarter of an hour in the water - always under medical supervision. Now Petr Kocian has decided he wants to be in a league of his own. As soon as he was warm enough to speak he told journalists his next goal was to be frozen in a block of ice.

13-12-2004