GSS EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Sweden’s Vansbro Swim (Vansbrosimningen) is the second largest race in the world, after South Africa’s Midmar Mile with 16,000 swimmers (also a GSS race), and it will be the host of the 2018 GSS – European Championships!
Vansbrosimningen is Sweden’s most classic open water event. And a huge and incredible event like no other.
There are several races in the overall event, but the main race is 3 km, and is swum under seven bridges in Vanån and Västerdalälven rivers. The first 2 km are with co-current flow and the last 1km is against the current. Swimming against the current is something unusual and requires a bit of strategy (hint: swimming closer to the shore avoids the stronger current!)
So I bet you are wondering how do organizers even host a race with 15,000 swimmers?! Well, the first waves start at 10:00 am and waves are continuously released every 12–15 minutes until 4:00 pm, essentially 6 hours of continuous waves of swimmers!
The race is divided into an elite and non-elite competition. In addition to men’s and women’s elite event, there is an event class of Para Swimmers, men and women. Prize money is awarded to the top three men and ladies of the elite competition. Everyone who completes the race will receive a medal and a diploma.
And how does a race grow from 10 swimmers in 1950 to over 15,000 swimmers today?
The answer is by offering something for everyone. And doing them all very well. Aside from the main competitive and elite races, there is also the “Vansbro Öppen Älv” which goes the day before the big race, the race is exactly the same, except it is meant for swimmers who don’t want to compete and would rather just enjoy it as a nice relaxing swim. Then there is a women’s only 1k, the Vansbro Tjejsim, and a 1k Youth Swim, the Vansbro Ungdomssim, for ages 10-17. And if 3k is a bit of a stretch for you, there is the Vansbro Half (1.5k) or Vansbro Halvsim and the 1k Short Swim or Vansbro Kortsim. And if 3k isn’t long enough for you, don’t worry, there is also a 10k!
In 1971 “The Swedish Classic” was introduced. The Classic Events include: Vansbrosimningen (swimming), Vasaloppet (cross country skiing), Engelbrektsloppet (cross country skiing), Lidingöloppet (running) and Vätternrundan (road cycling). To complete all 5 races in a single year is recognized as a major accomplishment and award!
If that wasn’t enough, the whole event runs for 9 days and even includes a 70.3 Triathlon and an 18 km Swim/Run race!
Of all the events in the GSS, this event truly has more of something for everyone than we’ve ever seen! And they are all incredible and fun events.
The Vansbro Swim started in 1950 and it even honors swimmers for their loyalty. Participants who swim their seventh race are awarded with the medal of ”Älvarnas Blå Band” (The River’s Blue Band Medal). Seven being the key number, to reflect the impressive accomplishment, and to reflect the fact that the swimmers would have swum under the seven bridges on seven occasions. The age limit for participation in Vansbrosimningen is from the year you turn 10 years.
This is one of the world’s truly great swims and one not to be missed. It is also a pretty cool reason to visit Sweden!