Archive for the ‘China’ Category


The BBC reports: Students applying to one of China’s most prestigious universities have been told they must learn to swim before they graduate.

Tsinghua University, known as the Harvard of the East, has ruled that the nation’s top minds must also prove themselves in the pool.

The news made waves on Chinese social media, with some questioning the move in a country struggling with drought.

But the university said swimming was a key survival skill.

President of Tsinghua University, Qiu Yong, said the exercise was made compulsory for all students because it also improved physical fitness.

One of China’s most highly regarded institutions, Tsinghua University first made swimming a requirement in 1919, but it was later dropped due to the university’s popularity and a lack of swimming pools in Beijing.

However, under the rules announced on Monday, new students beginning in September will have to take the plunge and demonstrate that they can swim at least 50m (164ft) using any stroke.

‘Arbitrary rules’

The announcement has been hotly debated on social media, with some questioning whether it is reasonable to expect those who grew up in inland cities to learn how to swim as adults.

“What happens to students from arid places that have no seaside or rivers?” wrote Yixunsangyao.

Another commenter, Xishuoge, wrote: “Even though it is a ‘famous university’, it shouldn’t make up arbitrary rules, as such rules could snuff out talents.”

Others, such as Shin-ssi, praised the university for promoting a “necessary skill which can save lives”, adding: “It’s a good thing for the university to emphasise this.”

Those who appeared pleased with their own abilities to swim, made light of the announcement, asking if they could enrol as students at Tsinghua University.



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Swimming in cold water—a popular Finnish winter pastime—increases the risk of strokes, according to a long-term study by Chinese scientists. Researchers compared death rates of winter swimmers and a control group over a thirty year period. Reports Yle Uutiset…


Winter swimming has long been regarded as a healthy pastime in Finland, but a new study by Chinese researchers challenges that view. Studies over shorter periods have shown some health benefits to swimming in cold water, but up to now there has been little research on the longer-term effects.

…The study followed nearly 900 members of a winter swimming club. …The results showed that the winter swimmers’ death rates from heart attacks and strokes were 10 percent higher than would be expected according to statistics from the general population.

“This is a long-term study and the sample is large, as there were more than 900 people in it,” said Rintamäki. “When the sample is that big this is a clear difference, so sure in that respect this research was well-conducted.”

The study did not look at how long the Chinese swimmers stayed in the water. In Finland many swimmers only stay submerged for a few seconds at a time—longer periods are always harder for the body to deal with. More…



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World Aquatics Championships 2011

Competitors warm up ahead of the Synchronized Swimming Team Tech final, during the 14th FINA World Aquatics Championships, in Shanghai, China, on 19 July.

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The Telegraph reports that thousands of people pack swimming pools and beaches in China to escape heatwave.

Thousands of people pack swimming pools and beaches in China to escape heatwave

Thousands of people pack swimming pools and beaches in China to escape heatwave

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Wild Swimming China

A popular, even if not quite official swimming area on Wuhan’s East Lake. This one is off Donghu Nan Lu, on the south-east side of the lake, near Wuhan University’s main campus. Wikipedia

In countries that have not passed through a sustained period of intolerance towards swimming in the wild opportunities like this abound.

Discover why wild swimmers were at one time chased out of the water in the U.K. by reading: Hung Out to Dry; Swimming and British Culture.


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Photograph by Cancan Chu, Getty Images

February 2013

China—Frigid festivities abound at the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in northeastern China. Here a swimmer pumps up enthusiasm before plunging into a pool carved out of the frozen Songhua River. National Geographic.

Cold Water Swimming


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Emblem of Hong Kong

Only one in five of Hong Kong’s people can swim reports CNN.

Alex Kwok, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Kowloon Lifeguards Union says: “Hong Kong is surrounded by water and it’s a big city.” This Chinese territory is made of more than 200 islands with 700 kilometres of coastline – more than the distance from London to Paris. Despite this “A lot of parents don’t want their children to do outdoor activity including hiking and swimming”. Yet the conservative attitude of parents is putting the lives of their children at risk rather than protecting them.

During a ferry collision on October 1st more than 100 people were thrown into the water, tragically 39 lives were lost. As most adults can’t swim parents have to turn to professional teachers to educate their young. The government offers discounted lessons but demand continually outstrips supply. Private lessons are also available but at a much higher cost (comparable to the cost of music lessons) and many parents are put off as they don’t see it as good value for money. Yet what price can you put on a child’s life?

In the UK a similarly disastrous collision brought the need for swimming instruction very much into focus. On September 3rd 1878 the steamboat Princess Alice collided with the coal ship Bywell Castle, at Galleon’s Reach on the River Thames. As she sank into the water 640 passengers lost their lives. Out of the three hundred and fifty female passengers on board only one survived, the only swimmer. Moral Concerns separated the sexes when swimming and British prudery objected to the display of female flesh, but these unnatural attitudes cost lives.

Following the disaster the British entered a golden age of swimming with swimming venues set up across the country. Swimming and life saving became highly valued skills, yet after this peak in swimming interest which set the standard for swimming excellence worldwide, the British today are returning to indifference and inactivity on the swimming frontier.

It should be obvious to everyone that children who are not taught to swim, either by their parents, friends or by professionals lack essential life saving education. Parents who play swimming roulette might get away with it for now, but in the end it’s their children or grandchildren that will pay the price.

The Swimming Times is running a competition this month and you have the chance to win one of five free copies of the history of British Swimming: Hung Out to Dry. To enter send an email to: swimmingtimes@swimming.org and include your name, address and the title Hung Out to Dry, the first five entries drawn will win (closing date: November 30th 2012).
You can also read Tom Edwards review of the book in November’s Swimming Times Open Water Supplement on page 39.

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