Ice in her veins – SA’ner shatters the records in Norway


With her TYR swimsuit, swimming cap and goggles, Amber Fillary is an anomaly among the few onlookers who stand armored against the weather in winter jackets and caps.

In the Norwegian town of Kongsberg, up to 69 cm of snow can fall annually and the mercury can drop to a jaw-dropping minimum of -9 °C (or much lower).

Suddenly the South African jumps into a hole in the ice where dark blue water paints a cold and ominous picture. A few calculated kicks and arm movements later, she took a deep breath and disappeared under the water.

After exactly 100 m below the ice ceiling, the Kapenaar emerges again. This time with a Guinness world record behind her name.

Fillary is officially the person who can swim the furthest under the ice with just one breath – of course without any scuba diving aids.

The next day (a Sunday) she is back again. She swims first 105 m and then 110 m.

“I have always loved the water. I just want to swim and be a freediver without any equipment,” Fillary told RNews on Tuesday, a few days after her record sessions.

She admits that the nerves are gnawing in the run-up to such a record-breaking attempt.

“Physically, you don’t feel too nervous either, but as soon as you jump into the water, the nerves disappear like fog before the sun. The water is my therapy, as it were.”

Also, don’t think she’s scared when she first starts swimming – aikôna, then she’s the one calm.

“At least I know that there are safety divers in the water with me, while holes have also been punched in the ice. But it is crucial to try to stay as calm as possible.”

According to Fillary, the road to the Guinness record did not necessarily follow an easy route. Her initial attempt was unsuccessful. Then knee problems and an incident when she lost consciousness also contributed to the drama before.

“I learned so many lessons. In the end, the record is behind my name, but it is actually the people who assisted me who deserve the biggest pat on the back.”

To prepare for her icy swimming session, she climbed into an ice bath quite a few times, prepared in South Africa and traveled to Berlin to swim in the cold lakes there.

“However, the Berlin adventure did not work so well. The water in Germany was around 6.5 °C; in Norway it was much colder.”

The 51-year-old’s life experience undoubtedly also provides a little fire in the icy water. After all, she has overcome disappointment, addiction and depression.

“It doesn’t really matter what the challenge facing you looks like. With enough determination you can make your dreams come true.”

What adventure does she want to take on next?

“I would like to paint again; maybe hold an art exhibition or something like that. At the same time, I also want to motivate people, especially after my battle with depression.”