Sprightly septuagenarian fired up for aQuellé Midmar Mile return


6 February 2024 – If ever there was a swimmer who embodied the adage that age is just a number, it would have to be Tommy Gibson.

The Benoni resident only started swimming training at the age of 71 and this weekend will see him competing in his third aQuellé Midmar Mile.

“I started running at 63 and about three years ago I developed a back problem. Somebody suggested why don’t I try swimming, so I swapped over to swimming and just absolutely love it,” explained Gibson, who even had a special aQuellé Midmar Mile design tattooed on his calf after his first race.

The now 73-year-old admitted that swimming in a pool doesn’t appeal, so he does all his training in a small dam on a private estate.

“It’s a long story but when I was training for Comrades somebody said I must do cross training and so for the first time I got into a swimming pool and didn’t like it at all. Swim 25m, turn around, swim 25m just wasn’t on. And that’s why when my friend suggested Midmar I said: ‘Hang on, wait a minute, that’s not like pool swimming.'”

Gibson finished his first aQuellé Midmar Mile in 2022 in a time of 41 minutes 22 seconds and bettered that the following year with a time of 37 minutes 39.

Speaking about his training for this year’s race, where he’ll be gunning for a podium spot in the 71-80 category, Gibson explained: “It’s been very good. The weather’s been a little bit funny the last couple of weeks but it’s good. I’m looking forward to it.”

The septuagenarian recently claimed top honours in the same category at the final Midmar seeding event at Prime View Adventure & Leisure in Midrand, where he finished the 1.5km swim in  time of 34 minutes and 13 seconds.

As for what he loves about the aQuellé Midmar Mile that keeps bringing him back, the semi-retired mining engineer added: “It’s just such a vibe, such a cool event. Open swimming is just such a fabulous event and you’re never too old.”

The aQuellé Midmar Mile takes place at Midmar Dam in KwaZulu-Natal from 8-11 February 2024. Entries will still be possible at the dam on race day but those wishing to enter should allow plenty of time for registration. Also, swimmers are advised that there will no shuttle service between the finish and start areas, so participants must make their own arrangements to get to the start.