Winter Swimmers Play Chess in Icy Water

April 17, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. stamina / ˈstæm ə nə / (n.) – strength of the mind or body that allows someone to continue doing something for a long time
Example: Keeping an exercise routine requires both mental and physical stamina.

2. inspire / ɪnˈspaɪər / (v.) – to influence and bring about something
Example: The dance was inspired by the country’s traditions.

3. compel / kəmˈpɛl / (v.) – to force or drive someone into doing something
Example: The summer heat compelled her to turn on the air conditioner.

4. in a snap / ɪn ə ˈsnæp / (idiom) – almost immediately or right away
Example: The player reacted in a snap and caught the ball in time.

5. prolonged / prəˈlɔŋd / (adj.) – extended length of time
Example: Her prolonged exposure to the sun gave her sunburn.


Read the text below.
A group of Russian winter swimmers played chess while submerged in icy water wearing only their underwear.

The men put their stamina to the test as they played immersed in chest-deep water with a temperature of around five degrees Celsius. Each match was played within a 10-minute time limit. The event took place in Lake Shartash in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The swimmers said that the tournament was inspired by Soviet-time winter swimmers who used to play chess in icy waters to improve stamina.

According to the players, the activity helped build both their physical and mental stamina. The limited time and the freezing temperature also compelled them to think and act in a snap. One player also said that playing submerged in cold water helped improve his concentration.

Members of the group are only few of many Russians who practice ice or winter swimming. Ice swimming is a centuries-old practice in Russia that hold religious significance. At present, a number of Russians also practice ice swimming regularly because they believe that it has health benefits, such as strengthening the immune system and improving blood circulation. It is important to note, however, that staying in extreme temperatures for prolonged periods is a health hazard.

Some people in the United States, Canada, and some European countries also plunge into freezing waters in an annual event called Polar Bear Plunge. They do so not to improve their stamina, but to raise money for charities.

This year, hundreds joined the Plunge event in February in different locations across the world. Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the Special Olympics.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Given the chance, would you dive into freezing water for a cause? Why or why not?
·         Why do people raise funds through unusual activities such as the Polar Bear Plunge?

Discussion B

·         What can people do to improve their physical stamina?
·         What would help people develop their mental stamina?

April 17, 2016