Just last month, the Pretoria swimmer braved freezing temperatures, competing at the Ice Swimming World Championships in Samoëns, France.
“It was an amazing experience as it was my second “ice” swim and my first swim below 5⁰C only swimming in a speedo, cap and goggles,” said Von Wielligh.
“I definitely think it has made me a tougher swimmer, as it is quite a mentally tough race, especially when you do 1000m in the “ice”. At about 500m you do not feel anything anymore, your body gradually shuts down and your hands and feet get very heavy.
“The only thing you focus on is to keep breathing as you race in the icy cold water,” added Von Wielligh who placed fifth overall in the 1000m and sixth in the 500m, breaking several age group world records along the way.
The extra level of toughness he’s gained will come in handy for his next major challenge – taking on the 16-Mile Charity Challenge at the aQuellé Midmar Mile
“This just shows you once again what your body can endure whether it’s the cold, ice waters or the distance of the 16 miles, anything is possible with enough training and a good mindset.”
Von Wielligh will be raising money for children’s cancer charity Happy Bundles as he takes on the 16-Mile Challenge for a sixth time. If all goes according to plan, he’ll pass the century mark in terms of the number of times he’s swum across the KwaZulu-Natal dam.
“It is the one time in a year when we as swimmers get the chance to give back to the community and charities doing what I love to do, swim,” he said.
“After this year’s event I will have completed over 100 Midmar Mile crossings in total, with many more to come.
“One thing that really makes Midmar special is the crowds and people cheering each other on, the camaraderie, whether it’s for the winner, or the person that has just completed their first mile, each person feels special, and this brings everyone back year after year,” added Von Wielligh, who completed the 16-Mile Challenge faster than any other swimmer last year and also finished 13th in the elite men’s race.
Meanwhile, another swimmer who surpassed the 100-mile mark several years ago is Gary Albertyn, who will also be taking on the 16-Mile Charity Challenge once again this year.
“It is getting a little tougher each year, because each year I get older and slower and I tend to like new challenges. This will be my eighth year swimming 16 miles, so the challenge is not that new anymore, although it still is quite challenging,” explained Albertyn.
“What keeps me motivated is the reason that we all do the charity challenge, that being raising much-needed funds for various charities.”
Albertyn has competed at the aQuellé Midmar Mile for the past 12 years and forged a well-worn wake across the dam.
“In the years to now I have swum a total of 142 miles, and with this year’s 16 as part of the charity challenge as well as two other races on the race weekend, I hope to have completed 160 by the end of the weekend,” explained the former national swimming champion and icon of the swimming community.
“A huge thank you to Wayne Riddin and his team for the organisation of such an awesome event, as well as to all the sponsors that enable such an event to take place, particularly aQuellé who have been the title sponsor for the past number of years… the atmosphere at the event is absolutely amazing, definitely something well worth experiencing.”
The aQuellé Midmar Mile takes place from 9-12 February 2023 at Midmar Dam in KwaZulu-Natal. Online entries are now closed. Those still wishing to swim can enter on the day at the dam but should arrive two hours before their race. For more details, head to www.midmarmile.coza