600 take the plunge in unusual swim

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — More than 600 swimmers from 13 countries stroked their way through one of Russia’s most scenic and historic settings Sunday, circling the St. Petersburg island that holds the Peter and Paul Fortress.

The 1.42-mile circuit — which some swam twice — took them around the iconic site noted for the needle-thin golden church spire that rises 402 feet high. The cathedral is where most Russian czars since Peter the Great are buried.

It is a tough swim not only for its length, but because of strong currents and seaweed in the Neva River.

Yelena Vodolazova, 46, of St. Petersburg said “it was not only a physical challenge for oneself but also an unforgettable experience of swimming in such beautiful historical location where swimming is normally restricted.”