16 January 2023 – Both Keri-anne Payne and Chad Ho have confirmed their intention to participate in the 50th anniversary of the aQuellé Midmar Mile next month.
Payne remains the most decorated female swimmer in the famous race’s history, having taken the title on eight occasions, and also still holds the record time of 17 minutes 33 seconds – which she swam in 2004. Ho, meanwhile, has won the men’s race a record seven times and also holds the men’s record of 17 minutes, which he set in 2016.
Payne is now based in the UK and claimed a silver medal for the British team in the 10km marathon swim at the 2008 Olympic Games along with two world titles – in 2009 and 2011, while Ho is a former world champion over 5km. Neither swimmer is planning to race competitively in the 2023 event, but the pair remain eager to be a part of such a significant milestone in the aQuellé Midmar Mile’s history.
“For me, Midmar Mile is a huge part of my childhood, having done it with my family as a kid,” said Payne. “I think I was there spectating before I was old enough to swim it – and it was always the swim that we would all go to, not just as a family but as a squad. It’s so big and so well run. It’s just a really fun place to be. I always have great memories of going to Midmar,” added the 35-year-old.
Payne recalls hearing her father and brother having a conversation about how they thought no swimmer could ever match Natasha Figge’s then-record of six victories at Midmar.
“I remember going: ‘I will, I’m going to show you.’ It wasn’t my life’s legacy or anything but I do remember specifically going: ‘Um, hello – I can do this.’
“So having the opportunity to come back even though I’d moved to the UK was a really awesome opportunity for me and to break the record was just amazing. It really was.”
Ho is equally thrilled to still hold the men’s record.
“Back in 2016 I wasn’t too focused on breaking the record I was more focused on qualifying for the Rio Olympics so I think for me to break the record, it showed how everything just came together perfectly and that my training was going great. I was at peak fitness and we had ideal race conditions which is always a bonus,” he explained.
“I’m not too sure when it will be broken, but records are there to be broken and until it is broken it’s an honour and privilege to hold the record.”
More than returning as the record-holder, however, Ho simply relishes the chance to be part of the event. “For me personally I think what makes Midmar so special to me is that it’s always been a family event. It’s spending the day out together with a great atmosphere and just enjoying swimming and the event.”
Both Ho and Payne have retired from international competition but have confirmed they intend to take part in the 2023 aQuellé Midmar Mile.
“I think my racing days are over,” said Payne. “I’m a mum now. I have a four-year-old and being able to actually get training in is really hard. That’s on top of the fact that I had an 18-year swimming career where I trained twice a day every day, doing 70,000m pretty much every week of my life, so if I’m honest the motivation at the moment isn’t there for me to train so that I can try and race it again. But hopefully I can come back and just enjoy the swim because I just love being part of the event.”
Ho added: “Of course I will be swimming this year. It is the one swim I make sure I do some training for and with it being the 50th anniversary it makes it even more special.”
Meanwhile, there is one last seeding event before the race. This will take place at Prime View Adventure and Leisure in Midrand this weekend – 21-22 January. To enter the seeding swim or the aQuellé Midmar Mile itself, head to www.midmarmile.co.za