Photo gallery: Blind rock climber wins Christmas Day swim race at Hampstead Heath bathing ponds
- Credit: Archant
A blind rock climber defied expectations to win his first ever competitive swimming race - after he joined dozens who plunged into icy waters for the traditional Christmas Day dip at Hampstead Heath’s bathing ponds.
A record number of men and women stripped to their swimsuits to race against each other for trophies - and their pride - at the men’s pond on Thursday, where the water temperature was a chilly 5C (41F).
Regular pond swimmer and crime author Red Szell, who recently became a professional blind rock climber, triumphed in the Highgate Lifebuoys race, a competition between members of the well-established club.
Mr Szell, of Gayton Street, Hampstead, said: “The club kindly let me join so I wouldn’t be in the general melee, and so less likely to kill or be killed.”
The 45-year-old added: “It was a wonderful surprise to win, like an early Christmas present before coming home. It made up for me coming back late for the Christmas lunch!”
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“I couldn’t have done this without the lifeguards. I’m incredibly grateful to them.”
About 130 swimmers took part in three races, while hundreds watched on from the pond’s banks.
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They were rewarded with hot mulled wine and mince pies served up by the lifeguards after finishing their swim.