Christchurch swimmers Quinton Hurley and Ruby Wagenvoord were both reluctantly plucked out of China’s famed Yangtze River before the finish of an 1800m international race.
The 17-year-olds both made it past the 1km mark among the 5000-strong field before battling the fast current proved too much.
“We both swam for the maximum 25min but the current was challenging,” Wagenvoord said.
“To try to beat it, I’d have to swim faster than I would for my 50m pool events,” she said.
“I saw the lifeboats come along and I initially waved them off and tried to keep going but the conditions weren’t great and eventually I had to let them drag me in,” Hurley said.
“The water was challenging and not many finished the race,” he said.
The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia at 6380km, and is still seen as a major trading route for China
The swimming competition is part of the Yangtze River Festival, which commemorates China’s former leader Mao Zedong, who swam across the river at Wuhan on July 16, 1966, aged 73.
Hurley, an open water specialist, and Wagenvoord, a multi-time national secondary school gold medallist, both featured in The Star before they left for China. Hurley said the atmosphere before, during, and after the race was like nothing he’d ever seen.
“There were TV crews everywhere and we were interviewed pre-race and there were so many people lined up and down the course as well as on these little floatie boats on the water,” he said. “There must have been hundreds of those along with all the other boats and ships.”
The duo also attended a post-race cultural evening with competitors before visiting China’s famed Yellow Crane Tower