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Big Effort Swim in Christina Lake goes on despite smoke, high winds

Long-distance. swimmers given extra time to complete times

Participants in the bigger races for Canada’s longest open water swim will get to log their times despite smoke and high winds putting a damper on the Aug. 19 event.

The Big Effort Swim on Christina Lake was still a well-attended and supported one, even though the 18 and 36-kilometre races were pulled from the day’s events over wildfire smoke and high winds.

“We made the decision around midnight to not have those races because of the weather forecast,” said founder and co-director Sasha Tyoschin. “I’m not using the words cancelled or postponed. We had to pivot.”

All racers in the longer swims now have until Sept. 25 to log their kilometres and submit them to the Big Effort Swim to have them verified. Those swimmers were also invited to join the shorter races, but those kilometres wouldn’t be counted towards their distances for the longer races.

He added these are races to raise money for charity. And due to the escalating wildfire situation, proceeds are now going to help B.C. Firefighting efforts.

Along with the shorter two-kilometre and four-kilometre races, the 750-metre race and children’s relay race was also held. Tyoschin said the air quality was still fair enough to have shorter swims, adding they could’ve held the longer ones, but the risks to long-term health were too great.

“It’s a matter of if people wanted to do their races once and possibly never be able to race again (because of lung damage from smoke) or be safe,” he said. “As well, the winds were so high buoys marking the route were blown way off course.”

Despite the setbacks, he praised the team of volunteers, including the ones helping him reset the water course for the shorter races, adding if he had to do it alone, he’d be out in a kayak for most of the day.

The disappointment was a mutual feeling for many of the swimmers who had trained for months and travelled to the lake, but with the understanding it wasn’t safe to race in heavy smoke. Tammy Kingston came all the way from Whitehorse, to swim in the 18-kilometre race. She joined the four-kilometre racers and was the first among them to emerge, but said realistically she swam about three kilometres.

Kingston said she wanted to do some kind of a race after all her hard work.

“When I got here I was bummed out and I decided to take a swim in the morning to clear my head,” she said. “I logged about 18 to 20 kilometres a week swimming to train for this, but I understand. Looking at the lake I can’t see and the air is not good.”

Kingston said she will be logging the 18 kilometres she needs this week.

It was still going to be a fun day for the community and get everyone involved in supporting the cause, added co-director Victoria Henne. Swimmers still had fun, with families and spectators cheering for swimmers from the beach.

It wasn’t all about swimming, though. To make it a community-friendly event, there were plenty of activities happening on the beach. The Christina Lake Firefighters cooked up pay-by-donation hamburgers and a pig roast and live music was part of the closing festivities, along with several information booths from partner groups like Christina Lake Rotary and Christina Lake Stewardship Society.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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