A PAIR of Hampshire swimmers are “on top of the world” after breaking ice swimming world records in the Arctic Circle.

Kate Steels-Fryatt and Rory Fitzgerald swam a kilometre in freezing-cold water to make history at the first Ice Swimming World Championships in Russia.

The middle-aged swimmers set world records in their age categories after a gruelling race at zero degrees.

They trained for the brutal conditions with a series of ice baths and drills in the Itchen, Hamble and Avon rivers.

Last month’s championships opened with an Olympic-style ceremony in the snow at Semyonovskoye Lake, near the remote northern port of Murmansk. The ice was 70cm thick.

Kate’s time of 19 minutes and 30 set the global record for women 45 and over.

“You just feel on top of the world, you feel totally ecstatic that you’ve done it,” she said.

“It was very difficult, extremely tough but I just kept swimming and thinking it’s an excellent opportunity. I don’t want to let anyone down.”

The 45-year-old, from Bishop’s Waltham, got into the extreme sport after two years of open-water swimming.

“I do like a challenge, to be able to push your body more to those extremes,” she added.

Rory, a 56-year-old accountant from Timsbury, near Romsey, finished with a time of 14 minutes and 22 seconds, setting a world record for the over-50s.

“The last length was a blur of foam and icy spray as I thrashed towards the finish,” he said. “I slapped the end with numb hands, five seconds ahead of my rival.”

The pair underwent a full medical check-up and ECG before swimming under strict safety regulations.

After the race, contestants were wrapped in hot, wet towels, replaced every few seconds before a visit to the sauna.

“The post swimming euphoria was contagious,” Rory added. “Soon everyone was laughing and recovery was complete! The tingling in your fingertips takes several days to fade.”