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World’s leading open water champion Petar Stoychev wins extreme SA sea swim race

Bulgarian swimming sensation Petar Stoychev overcame icy water, strong local and international competition and a day’s delay to win the extreme Cadiz Freedom Swim in Big Bay, Cape Town, South Africa on Sunday.

Stoychev, 34, widely regarded as the world’s most successful open water swimmer of the last decade, finished an 9.3km route in 12°C in a time of 1:51:54 in the event which raises funds for Vista Nova School for children with learning disabilities.

Grimsey collapsed as he crossed the finish line and was treated for mild hypothermia by Medi-Clinic’s emergency team at the site.

Seventeen year old South African sensation Lisa Cowling was the winning female and third overall beating a field of strong male and female international and local extreme swimmers. “It was tough. I went numb from the cold and then I was okay. I didn’t expect to do as well as I did, I was just aiming to finish. I’m happy,” she said afterwards.

Stoychev described the race as “very good, but very hard. Trent started very fast and it was difficult out there. There were also very strong South Africans in the field,” he said.

Grimsey said the race was “the hardest I have ever done by far. I’ve never swum in anything this cold. I remember crossing the finish line and not much afterwards.”

The swim traditionally follows a 7.5km route from Robben Island to Big Bay, and was set for Saturday with Sunday as a contingency date. Cadiz Freedom Swim patron Ram Barkai said after initially preparing to swim on Saturday, strong winds led to a postponement to Sunday for safety reasons. When strong winds and very cold water was also predicted on Sunday, an alternative swim route in Big Bay was arranged, again to ensure swimmer safety, said Barkai.

Of an initial field of 410, about 260 swimmers (solo and relay) took to the water on Sunday for the 9.3km route. Twelve were treated for moderate hypothermia during and after the race and at least 70% of the field experienced mild hypothermia, said Medi-Clinic’s Dr Basil Bonner.

Lifeguards from Big Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, the NSRI, West Coast Volunteers and scores of other staff oversaw swimmer safety. Race sponsors included Marcus Rohrer Spirulina, Speedo and the Western Cape Government.

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