BEIJING • Temperatures in Beijing were set to plummet to a three-decade low overnight yesterday, but that did not stop a hardy group of retirees from plunging into icy waters to indulge in their bracing hobby of outdoor swimming.

As the mercury fell to minus 11 deg C in the Chinese capital by the afternoon – and was forecast to dip as low as minus 18 deg C overnight – around 15 swimmers jumped into icy outdoor waters of a lake at a city park.

“It’s cold in the water, but you will feel good when you come out,” said 60-year-old Nie Bing, emerging from the icy depths.

Wearing swimsuits, goggles, hats, water shoes and socks and even gloves, the band of hardy swimmers take to the water every day for a dip, whatever the weather.

In mid-winter, they often have to break the ice that forms over the lake, sweeping sheets of it to one side with a fishing rod to create swimming lanes.

Nearby, less hardy souls, bundled up in layers against the chill, glided across the frozen lake on their ice skates.

“The colder it is, the more you want to swim,” affirmed another swimmer, surnamed Zhang, who said he is in his 70s.

China’s meteorological authority has issued a severe weather warning for large parts of the country, alerting people to drastic temperature drops and strong gales.

In Beijing, strong winds were predicted to drag the ground temperature down to below minus 30 degrees C overnight.

As the swimming troupe emerged from the lake, some doused themselves in warm water and watched the steam rise off their bodies.

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After their daily swim, they bundle up in warm clothes and gather on the banks to sing songs together.

Mr Zhang did admit that the temperature felt “colder than usual” – but said it was no cause for concern. “I’ve swam in colder weather than this,” he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE





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