IT is an event undertaken by only the hardiest of souls and is guaranteed to be won by someone with a cool head.

And now Scottish swimmer Karen Weir has scooped gold at the Lake Bled Winter Swimming cup by completing the 50 metres freestyle in water where the temperature dropped to just four degrees C.

The event, in Slovenia, sees competitors strike out onto the lake while snow blankets the shore wearing only swim suits, caps and goggles. No wetsuits are allowed and even an insulating layer of goose fat is banned.

Karen, from Paisley, is a keen outdoor swimmer and member of the Wild West Swimmers group, who regularly take to the water at locations throughout Scotland.

She said: "The cold isn't a problem at all, as long as you are acclimatized to it. Once you get in it's fine. It's a shock to the system at first but it does get easier

"The swim was just a local thing, but I was pleased to get gold. I also won a bronze medal in another race. Everyone there had a great time and was laughing and smiling when they got out."

The ice maiden said that she plans to use the event as a stepping stone to competing at the International Winter Swimming Association event in Estonia next month.

She said that the swim in Slovenia was warmer than her coldest plunge, which took place in an outdoor pool in London where the temperature dropped to two and a half oC.

She said: "There was ice on the water and it was 3 degrees when I got in, although it dropped to two and a half. That was ok too, but it did get a bit uncomfortable to wards the end.

"I'm not an athlete, but the ultimate goal is to do an ice mile, where you swim the mile in water under five degrees."

ends +