30 January 2023 – Both Connor Buck and Stephanie Houtman have confirmed they’ll be back to defend their titles at the aQuellé Midmar Mile next month.
The duo both claimed their first Midmar titles in 2022 – in the respective men’s and women’s races – and are eager to return to the dam for the 50th edition of the event.
After his victory at the famous KwaZulu-Natal race, Buck went on to qualify for the World Championships in Budapest and also secured a top-10 spot at the World Junior Open Water Championships later in the year.
“I feel that I’ve grown a lot in the past year in my open water swimming, particularly in the 10km,” said the 20-year-old. “I’ve improved in many aspects from my pacing to where I position myself in the pack. Although if I’m being honest, I’m not sure all of these skills will play a very big role in the mile seeing as it is very short for an open water race. It will probably come down to who is the fastest on the day.”
Speaking about what he learned during last year’s aQuellé Midmar Mile, Buck added: “I realised that my sighting needs quite a bit of work. I didn’t exactly swim a straight line in last year’s race so that is one aspect that I could improve on.
“I’m certainly going to do everything in my power to fight for another win, but I don’t want to jinx it and I don’t want to lose sight of this year’s race fantasising about racking up wins. The important thing for me is to stay focused on this year’s edition and have the best possible race by learning from last year.”
Houtman made a last-minute decision to travel to Midmar last year and it paid off as she claimed the women’s title.
This year there was no doubt about whether she would compete or not. While Buck will have the British duo of Ashley Hogg and Bailey Hairsine to contend with (apart from the usual South African contingent), Houtman has the even tougher task of taking on the world champion over 10km, Sharon van Rouwendaal.
She’s taking it all in her stride, however.
“Open water is very unpredictable, anything can happen in the race but I guess having more and more experience does give you a little bit of an advantage,” said the Pretoria swimmer.
“Swimming is a journey for me and the more I race, the more I learn about myself and the areas I need to improve on.”
Speaking about the possibility of back-to-back wins, Houtman added: “It will be tough but I’m going to enjoy the race and hopefully get a podium finish… I love swimming the Midmar Mile and really look forward to the race.
“You have to commend [race director] Wayne Riddin for creating this world-renowned open water race and to swim in the 50th edition is an absolute privilege.”
Buck is also looking forward to being part of the half-century celebrations. “The fact that it’s the largest open water swim in the world and that there are so many top-quality athletes always makes it an exciting experience. It’s an important part of open water swimming history and it feels great to be there for the 50th milestone.”
The aQuellé Midmar Mile takes place from 9-12 February 2023 at Midmar Dam in KwaZulu-Natal. For more details, head to www.midmarmile.co.za