Millions raised as aQuellé Midmar Mile Charity Challenge delivers inspiring start to the weekend’s action

9 February 2024 – There were plenty of tired bodies on the shore of Midmar Dam in KwaZulu-Natal and the 8-mile and 16-mile aQuellé Midmar Mile Charity Challenge came to an end on Friday.

At the same time, millions of rands have already been raised, while more continues to come in. Leading the charge in terms of fundraising once again this year was Capetonian Joanne Barnard, who was swimming in the colours of children’s cancer charity CHOC.

“This year I got up to R180,000 which is very special,” said a thrilled Barnard at the end of her swim, paying tribute to all her partners and sponsors.

Asked what keeps her motivated throughout the 8 miles swum over two days, Barnard reckoned: “I spend a lot of time going through things and planning and praying and it’s also the cause. When you have those moments of fatigue and you think ‘oh my gosh, why?’ then you remember why, so it’s really fun.”

Reino von Wielligh was once again the fastest swimmer to complete the 16-mile challenge, finishing with a total time of 5:47.58 while Cassidey Rae Doubell was the fastest woman in 7:07.50.

“It feels good,” said Von Wielligh. “It does get to you after each one. But at the end of the day you come back. If you ask me now if I’ll do it next year I’ll say no, and if you ask me in two weeks I’ll say yes because it’s for a good cause.

“If you continue the 16 mile each year, at least you know what you’re getting yourself into. You know where it hurts and when to push through and I think that’s one of the nice things about doing it consecutively because you’re doing it for charity at the end of the day and that’s what drives you. I’m hurting but that’s ok, you just have to keep on going,” added Von Wielligh, who will swim again on Saturday with his seven-month pregnant sister who is completing her 27th Midmar Mile, before taking on the elite men’s race on Sunday.

Meanwhile, several swimmers completed their 10th 8-mile challenges on Friday. Among them were Liz Burczak, Carol Fourie and Shelly-Ann McHendrie, all swimming for Pink Drive.

“It feels like I’ve accomplished one of the biggest things in my life,” said a teary McHendrie. “It’s great to have done it for such a great initiative and cause so I’m feeling fantastic and a bit emotional because I swam for my dad who had wanted to see me do my 10th 8 Mile but didn’t – he passed away from cancer unfortunately. I also had cervical cancer and they managed to remove it – through early detection and that’s also why I’m supporting Pink Drive because we stand for early detection and that’s why I’m a cancer survivor.”

Fourie added: “I am relieved, chuffed, a little bit sore but very glad that 10 are done. I had bronchitis from November through until two weeks ago so I wasn’t expecting anything great and it was much better than expected.

“I’m swimming for those who can’t. I’ve had quite a few friends who have gone through the whole battle with cancer and that’s what keeps me going.”

Also among the Pink Drive swimmers was the 1976 winner of the aQuellé Midmar Mile, Linda Adam, who completed her eighth 8-mile challenge along with all three of her daughters, Angela Lawrence, Julia Anderson and Paula Hall.

Asked what inspired them all to take on the challenge, Anderson joked: “My mom is very bossy!

“No, it’s for our dad.”

Adam explained her husband is fighting prostate cancer while two of her sons-in-law have also fought their own cancer battles.

As for getting through the two gruelling days of swimming, she explained: “It’s more of a mind game. We all know we’re strong enough so it’s just your mind. You have to be focused.”

Later in the day, Jane Rees was the final swimmer to complete the 8-mile challenge at the incredible age of 79, so bringing the total of finishers to 168, with 17 finishing the 16-mile challenge.

The quickest men’s swimmer to complete the 8 miles was Shane van der Linde in 3:03.06 while Emily Martens was the quickest of the women in 3:36.57.

Swimming action continues as the main events of the aQuellé Midmar Mile kick off on Saturday morning and run through to Sunday. Entries will still be possible at the dam on race day but those wishing to enter should allow plenty of time for registration.