11 February 2024 – Australia’s Nick Sloman added a second aQuellé Midmar Mile title to his ever-growing collection of accolades while there was joy for Kloof swimmer Tory Earle as she claimed her first women’s title, with the event wrapping up at the famous KwaZulu-Natal dam on Sunday.
Rough conditions meant a record time was not going to be likely for Sloman, who had returned to Midmar Dam after his 2019 win with the mission of breaking Chad Ho’s 2016 mark of 17 minutes flat.
He nevertheless produced a dominant performance on the day, storming to the front early on and opening up a massive gap to reach the finish in 18 minutes 29 seconds – almost a full minute and a half ahead of his nearest challenger.
Connor Albertyn was second in a time of 19:58 with fellow Pretoria swimmer Sven van der Linde third in 20:01.
“I found the first 1200m really challenging. I couldn’t quite get the rhythm that I needed, hitting that headwind and really sort of breaking my stroke up a bit,” said Sloman after the race. “I was sitting lower in the water as well so I was basically swimming uphill… but I’m happy with how I swam it and managed to get the win so that’s always good,” added the 26-year-old, who just before heading to South Africa, claimed a gold medal with his Australian teammates in the mixed 4x1500m open water event at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha.
Albertyn, who like Sloman headed to Midmar straight from Doha, also found it tough going on Sunday.
“It was a really rough race, the waves were terrible, to be honest. That first 400 I was struggling to even get a breath in… It did flatten out a bit in the last 400 and I was happy with that. It was a good swim for the conditions,” he said.
“I’m very chuffed with second place. It’s the highest I’ve ever finished at Midmar so I’m very happy with that.”
18-year-old Van der Linde was thrilled to complete the podium. “It’s very exciting – I didn’t think I would get up there this year. I was hoping for a top-10 finish and I’m really surprised with where I came out,” reckoned the TUKS swimmer.
Speaking about his 17-minute record that remained intact by the end of the weekend, seven-time aQuellé Midmar Mile champion Chad Ho said: “Records are there to be broken so if he [Sloman] broke it, I would’ve been happy for him. Obviously, I’m happy that it stands for another year, but I’m sure at some point in the future it will get broken.”
The now-retired Ho finished first in the 31 to 40 category in a time of 25:29 in what was his 26th year completing the Midmar Mile.
Meanwhile, the women’s race also saw Earle emerging as an early leader. She powered to the front along with training partner Carli Antonopoulos but then managed to open up some distance between them, reaching the finish in a time of 20:49, with Antonopoulos second in 21:14 and two-time Midmar champion Michelle Weber coming in third in 23:09.
“It’s really cool actually. I’ve been doing Midmar for a lot of years now so it’s really cool to finally win it,” said Earle who was also part of the South African open water team that competed in Doha.
“My plan with Midmar is always put your head down and sprint. I just wanted to get clear of the bunch at the beginning and just go out fast. It’s usually better to sprint and get away from the pack early and then you can sort of catch your breath in the middle and then sprint at the end.”
Antonopoulos admitted afterwards: “I’m not going to lie, it was a tough race. It’s definitely one of the toughest Midmars I’ve done over the past few years.
“It’s always great racing with Tory – we train together so that’s really nice. I saw her ahead of me and I tried to catch her but, her and Midmar – she’s just got this relationship where she just motors through the dam so I’m really proud of her and also really happy with my swim as well.”
Also pleased with her performance was third-placed Weber who had said in the build-up to the race that she wasn’t in competitive form.
“I was so calm and so chilled on the boat and the whole morning and even the whole weekend. I wasn’t even thinking about it – I was thinking if I come in fifth place, I’ll be really happy, so to come top three, I think that’s really awesome,” said the two-time Olympian.
Several others reached significant milestones on Sunday with Pietermaritzburg swimmer Martin Godfrey completing his 50th aQuellé Midmar Mile. Asked afterwards about attempting the next 50, he quipped: “Let’s try 10 first and then when I get to 60, let’s see what happens. Maybe another 50 – I’ll be 100 and something by then.”
For full aQuellé Midmar Mile results, head to: www.finishtime.co.za
aQuellé Midmar Mile top 10:
- Nick Sloman 18:29
- Connor Albertyn 19:58
- Sven van der Linde 20:01
- Matthew Caldwell 20:21
- Reino von Wielligh 20:22
- Reece Zowitsky 20:33
- Joshua Ashley 20:34
- Ricky Lottering 20:34
- Max Spory 20:42
- Rossouw Venter 20:48
- Tory Earle 20:49
- Carli Antonopoulos 21:14
- Michelle Weber 23:09
- Megan Shepherd 23:09
- Kirsty Andraos 23:11
- Corné van Schalkwyk 23:11
- Samantha Randle 23:11
- Tayla Bruce 23:11
- Rachel Arielle Smith 23:11
- Taylor Pharoah 23:13