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    Winter Swimmers Brave Icy Waters in China

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    NTDTelevision

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    And also at the Ice and Snow Festival, dozens of brave souls who dared to take a swim in freezing water. The water was so cold, a layer of ice had to be cut away so the swimmers could chill out.

    Snow, ice and temperatures as low as -11 degrees Fahrenheit didn't stop more than 40 swimmers from participating in a friendly swimming competition on Wednesday. It was held in the freezing waters of Harbin's Songhua River in northeast China.

    Organizers carved a hole in the icy river surface to make a small swimming pool as spectators bundled in warm clothing cheered on the participants from across the country.

    Most swimmers wore nothing more than swimsuits, caps and goggles, although Harbin resident Yu Xiaofeng wore the pride of her city during the race.

    [Yu Xiaofeng, Harbin Resident]:
    "Winter swimming is part of our daily exercise. I am representing Harbin by participating in this competition and competing for points. We are competing to be number one, as a team."

    Winter swimming is a traditional cold-weather pastime across northern China, mainly for middle-aged and elderly people who enjoy the challenge and thrill of the swim, or believe it benefits their health.

    [Zhu Bo, Winter Swimmer]:
    "Firstly, it's good for your blood circulation, it also strengthens your will power, and it keeps your body in good shape."

    Spectators were impressed by the swimmers' fortitude, but many admitted they could never do the same.

    [Ms. Li, Spectator]:
    "I have never done this before -- you need a lot of courage to do this. I don't have that courage."

    The 2011 Harbin Ice and Snow Festival runs until March.