A HIGH Wray couple have taken part in a winter open water swimming final in Latvia - and they want to bring the sport to Cumbria.

Steven Hill, 42, and partner Steph Cox, 39, competed in the Roni Winter Swimming Race in Jelgavas where the water temperature was just four degree Celsius and competitors swam without a wetsuit.

The pair took part in the 4x25m relay along with two Latvian swimmers, and the quartet finished third, with Estonia winning and another Latvian team second.

Cox went on to pick up a bronze in the 25m head up breaststroke race for her age group, while Hill took part in the 450m endurance swim, for which Hill is the current world champion for his age.

He emerged triumphant once again in his age group, finishing second overall.

Having moved back to the Lake District last month, the couple are now organising the inaugural winter swimming race in Windermere on February 2.

Hill and Cox want to organise an introductory session for those wanting to participate in the event so that people can get used to the temperatures before they try out for the big race in February.

One of the world’s top ‘ice’ swimmers, South African Ram Barkai, has already said he wants to compete in the event, which Hill and Cox are organising through their Chillswim business which they have recently set up.

As well as extreme swimmer Barkai, who will give a talk on his life swimming at cold temperatures around the world, competitors from Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden, as well as those in Britain, are expected to take part.

Hill, who was a key figure in setting up the Great North Swim in Windermere, and Cox have experience organising such events having worked for three years on the Olympic Games for LOCOG, helping to arrange the marathon swimming event (Hill) and cycling (Cox).

“Everyone’s a bit barking mad to do this sport but it is such good fun,” Hill said.

“I can’t see this ever being as big as the Great North Swim but we want to try it this year and hopefully it will grow and grow.

“We’re hoping a couple of hundred people will take part.”

Hill says that the swim will take place at the Low Wood Hotel, where staff will reconfigure their marina to accommodate the swim, in effect turning the marina into an outdoor 25m swimming pool.

For more information on the couple and the Windermere swim go to www.chillswim.com.