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Watch: People are yearning to be back, says ÖTILLÖ co-founder Lemmel

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun has returned to our shores for another edition, the final race of the season, after a two-year hiatus as a result of COVID-19. The event is a breath of fresh air for Swedish organisers who albeit with reduced numbers due to COVID-19 restrictions in Malta, have managed to pull off the weekend’s races.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, ÖTILLÖ co-founder Michael Lemmel said that there is an aura of happiness around the event.

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“We can expect a lot of happiness for people to be back racing. Not only on Malta but racing in general because it’s been a tough couple of years and people are yearning to get out in nature and be part of the community and just visit this beautiful island,” Lemmel said.

The Experience race yesterday took on a distance of 7.4 kilometres with three swim sections totalling 1,200 metres.

The Sprint, also yesterday, eluded to the distance and not to the speed. It is a total of 12.8km with five swim sections totalling 2,500 metres.

The world series event today, which acts as a qualifier to the World Championship and where teams can collect ranking points, will push competitors for a total of 39km with 14 swim sections totalling 7,450 metres.

Asked about how Malta has become a ‘playground’ for international athletes taking part in outdoor sports like swimrun, Lemmel hailed the Maltese climate and culture, making it an ideal location.

“I believe that if you really think about where we are, far south in Europe, this means we have a long summer and you can escape the dreary and the dark autumn in the northern part and you have the perfect location for flights and it’s beautiful, food is good and people are friendly,” he said.

“The water is magical to swim in, so for outdoor sports and especially water. I would say it’s an ideal location for late or early year training.”

Jonathan Shaw, local coordinator for ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Malta, cherished the relationship he and his team have established with the international organisation but he lamented the fact that Malta was unknown by many with regards this sport.

“The organisers are Swedish and a lot of participants are from northern Europe but you’d be surprised how Malta is not on the map for this kind of sport – trail running or open sea swimming,” Shaw said.

“So when swimrun came here, they were surprised to see what the island has to offer.

“For us, you might think it’s cold at 14 degrees in January but for some of these people, it’s their summer so the fact that we can swim all year round is great.

“The response was great, so we wanted to do it again (in 2020). However, we had to postpone due to COVID and this year even though there is a lot of uncertainty, and until five, six weeks ago we didn’t know, we managed to pull it off.”

Swimrun growth

Asked about the growth of swimrun in Malta, Shaw explained that despite the sport being quite new, especially in Malta, it has seen an increase in participation.

“Swimrun as a sport is very young, around 15 years old, we swim with shoes and keep on running wet so it’s not like triathlon where you change. This is new and in Malta it did increase because unlike triathlon, you don’t need a bike,” he said.

“Outdoor sport has had a boost, and if in these two years there was something good about COVID, it was that people got out of gyms and pools, even though there is nothing wrong with both.

“But training in the outdoors is amazing and on the beaches in winter you are starting to see at least 200 people training early morning and it’s amazing. The outdoor training culture has shot up.

“Hopefully we will stick to it.”

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