Competition heats up in the 44th aQuellé Midmar Mile
The aQuellé Midmar Mile will be celebrating the 44th year in fine style as Olympic Champion in Rio, Ferry Weertman, flies out from the Netherlands to tackle seven-time men’s winner Chad Ho in the World’s Largest Open Water Swimming event at Midmar Dam over the weekend of 11-12 February.
Weertman won the final dash during the Olympic Games 10km open water event while Ho ended 10th just five seconds off the pace – and a rematch is offered here to Ho. If he takes his eighth Midmar Mile title in a row, it will truly put him down among the best in the world.
The Olympic Champion headed to open water swimming after he failed to qualify for the 800m freestyle at the 2009 European Junior Championships. The most influential person in his career has been coach Marcel Wouda, while his hero and idol was Dutch swimmer Maarten van der Weijden who raced in the Mile swim in 2005 to finish second to Troyden Prinsloo.
“Pain is not my enemy, it’s my call to greatness” is the motto that Weertman has followed to achieve the results he has, ending with that gold in Rio last year.
While one can expect a tough race between Ho and Weertman, USA’s world champion Chip Peterson will add ample competition. The North Carolina-based swimmer won gold at the 2005 World Championships in the 10km and finished second in the 5km. Then in 2007, Peterson won the gold in the 1500m freestyle at the Pan American Games in Rio as well as taking the silver in the 10km open water event.
Throw the younger Mathew Meyer into the fold, who in 2016 lead the Midmar Mile to just after the 1200m mark before Ho took ove,r and then went on to qualify and compete at the Olympic Games – all in his matric year – and this must rate as one of the most competitive men’s events yet!
On the women’s side, Midmar welcomes back double winner Ashley Twichell who has been in outstanding form lately.
Twichell finished second to British star Keri-Anne Payne in 2012 before dominating with two victories in a row in 2013 and 2014 at Midmar. In 2015, a fired-up Payne took her title back with a solid 30 seconds victory!
But Twichell’s speed over the 800m freestyle in the pool earned her a silver medal at the recent World Short Course Championships. A victory at the Arena Pro-series in January once again proves that she is the lady to beat!
Lexie Kelly, who came out in 2014 and swam all eight miles, finishing in ninth position in the main ladies race, will be out with Peterson and Twichell. They will experience a little more as they fly down to Cape Town the following week to compete in the Sanlam Cape Mile before heading back to their home bases in the USA.
Top British coach Sean Kelly visits every year and adds his swimmers to the challenge. Holly Hibbott was second to Michelle Weber last year, but since then has moved up the ranks to finish the season with a top-10 800m freestyle in the world and become the senior double national for the first time.
Harrison Coulter, Katie Matts and Lucy McKenzie could also feature from the Kelly brigade – and don’t be surprised if Kelly himself decides to tackle the 51-60 years age group this year!
The aQuellé Midmar Mile prides itself on raising approximately R2million for charities through the efforts of some 120 brave swimmers tackling all eight miles over the two days as well as 12 swimmers tackling a 16-mile journey by swimming to the start of each of the races.
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