Nearly 2,000 people join annual plunge into icy Danube

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A record 1,917 hardy swimmers of all ages joined an annual 400-metre race in the icy Danube River in southern Germany on Saturday, a popular event now in its 50th year.

Most participants wore neoprene suits, Viking helmets and other colourful costumes, but 70 so-called “naked swimmers” wore nothing but their bathing suits.

Organisers said the temperature of the Danube, or Donau in German, was 2.5 degrees Celsius (36.5°F). Twenty swimmers suffered hypothermia and had to be pulled out of the water.Volunteers doled out hot soup as the swimmers emerged.

Michael Moeller said he wore neoprene the first two years he came, but has participated bare-chested for the past 13 years.

“It’s very refreshing,” he said.

Thomas Giesefeld said the experience was exhilarating.

“When the body goes back to normal it is just fantastic, it feels like champagne, and for hours you feel like you are walking on air. I can’t really describe it, but that is what it is,” he said.

Organisers said 222 groups from 162 communities took part this year, including swimmers from as far away as Poland, France and the Czech Republic.

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