She’s still our Champ even though it wasn’t her Swim

Roxy van Eyk at the Afriski Resort in Lesotho.

Roxy van Eyk at the Afriski Resort in Lesotho. Photos: Provided

It was the day she had looked forward to so much. But 9 August  was not ice swimmer Roxy van Eyk’s day. Just 200 m short of completing the 1 km ice swim at the Afriski Mountain Resort in Lesotho she realised she simply could not go on.

“I tried to climb out but I could not move,” she recalls. “Two guys picked me up and put me into the resort ambulance. All I remember saying is: Where is Shaun? (the swimmers’ doctor).”

Her body temperature plummeted, her buoy got entangled, she was in pain.

Numb with cold, but hurting.

Frozen popsicle
The 800 metres she swam in the icy water had taken its toll. Roxy’s body core temperature had dropped from
37.2 ºC to 26.8ºC. “It was the lowest core temperature I ever had,” she says. Paradoxically, her recovery time was the quickest ever. She took 40 minutes to recover whereas her usual recovery time is an hour and a half. But that was a small consolation for the usually bubbly swimming instructor and lifeguard from Melkbosstrand.

200 Metres short of her goal she had to withdraw.

200 Metres short of her goal she had to withdraw.

What went wrong?
Being unable to complete the swim left Roxy in tears. She lives according to the motto of ‘Never give up.’ Having suffered from epilepsy since an early age she has taken pride in her ability to overcome obstacles. And of course there is her desire to use her profile to launch a big charity drive for people suffering from epilepsy. She felt she had let down people.

“I don’t want to make excuses,” she says over a cappuccino in a cosy restaurant in Melkbosstrand. It is a world away from the Afriski Mountain Resort, that according to reports had recorded its heaviest snow in two decades in late July. “The storm prompted the airlifts of at least eight tourists, and caused the deaths of several shepherds in the Joe Gqabi District Municipality.”

The swimmers spent hours building the pool.

The swimmers spent hours building the pool.

Not my swim
“It wasn’t my swim, basically,” Roxy says philosophically. Perhaps it was the fact that she’s too thin that caused her to have to pull out. She smiles ruefully and says that she eats whatever she wants but has a tendency to lose weight. The evening before the swim she ate a big pesto pasta. The morning of the swim she had a three egg omelette; she intends to see a sports nutritionist in order to gain weight. But there were other factors at play, too.

Over a period of three days the team of 15 ice swimmers had to spend hours building a pool in the ice, using a chainsaw. Perhaps that had tired her? Or perhaps it was the altitude that got to her or the fact that the buoy which the ice swimmers have to wear kept getting entangled in the rope of a buoy on the dam. People ask her how she knew she had to get out of the water.

“I just knew. Time out,” she says. “Your whole body pains to your bones. People were cheering me on saying: Go, Roxy, go, but I was in so much pain that I did not want to hear it. I just wanted quiet.”

She's going back to Afriski.

She’s going back to Afriski.

Next ice swim is on the cards
“Will you go to Afriski again?” Melkbos.net asks. “Yes, of course,” she laughs. But next time the ice swimmers will spend a week to ten days at the resort in order to get used to the altitude, and they plan to take more people along to help them build the pool.

The ice swimmers.

The ice swimmers.

In order to qualify for the World Swimming Championships that take place in Germany in January 2017 Roxy has to complete another ice swim, and do so soon. Another swim is in on the cards in Ceres in about two weeks if the cold weather holds and temperatures plummet, she says with shining eyes.

You can read about the way ice swimmers train in a previous article.