It was a day for South African celebrations as the Durban duo of Robyn Kinghorn and Michael McGlynn wrapped up the women and men’s titles at the aQuellé Midmar Mile.
International swimmers have dominated the elite events in recent years with the last double home victory coming in 2016 from Michelle Weber and Chad Ho. Those 2016 champions, who are both looking towards Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification later in the year, were aiming for a repeat of that feat in this year’s race, but were beaten in dominant fashion.
Both Kinghorn and McGlynn mastered the choppy conditions to perfection. They powered to the front of their respective races early and could not be caught over the mile-long course.
Kinghorn chose a line across the dam that was well to the right of the chasing pack and it proved to work as she stayed in front to reach the finish in 21 minutes 16.
Samantha Randle finished in second place 11 seconds later with Victoria Earle in third in 21:30. 2016 champion Weber was fourth.
“I’m burning on the inside but I’m extremely happy with my race,” said 20-year-old Kinghorn afterwards. “Everyone today swam their hearts out, I know that.
“The chop was extremely bad so looking up I did get quite a few waves in my face. I didn’t really know where I was going, so swimming along and seeing the others in a bunch was quite concerning, but I just went for it and put my head down.”
The men’s race saw McGlynn also well out in front from the start as he relished the challenge of the rough conditions. Having finished second in last year’s race, the Durban swimmer was determined he’d finish in front this time, reaching the shore in 18 minutes 26.
Seven-time champion Ho was second in 19:02 and Henré Louw finished in third spot five seconds later.
Describing how he chose which line to take across the dam, McGlynn said: “I decided to just go with what felt right and that was the middle. It changes every year. I just put my head down and went for it.
“I tried to look back a few times, but you know that saying ‘don’t look back’ – so I just carried on going. I’m a sea swimmer as well so these conditions kind of played into my hands today and it was my day.
“Maybe if it was flat it would have been under 17 minutes. I was 17:28 last year so in these conditions 18 doesn’t matter – it was just about getting the job done,” added McGlynn whose brother Chris finished in sixth place.
“It’s my first win and I’m glad I could do it for South Africa as well. Midmar Mile is very prestigious. My first win, I’m 20 – I’m happy.”
Earlier in the day before the wind picked up American Lexie Kelly once again dominated in her age category, winning the women’s 31-40 race in 22:36.
“It was so awesome, it was so smooth. The water was really glassy. I got in a nice little pack with some guys and had a really good line and a beautiful swim,” she said afterwards.
“My goal is to win the full decade from 30 and over and this is my fourth win in a row.”
One of the most impressive swims of the day came from 1977 Midmar champion Paul Blackbeard who emerged as the overall winner of the second event of the day, for swimmers 13 and under and 30 and over. The soon-to-be 62-year-old emerged from the water in 21:34 to also top the 61-70 category.
“It was better than yesterday. Still a bit bumpy but it was a nice swim and the water is nice and clean so it’s lovely. I thought there would be a 13-year-old much closer to me so that was a bit of a surprise that a 61 year old can win it,” said the former South Africa star who is now based in Perth and owns every Australian record in his age group from 100 to 1500m freestyle.
“I’m training quite hard for a 20km swim that I’m doing in two weeks’ time so I’m kind of in the diesel motor mode at the moment so this was a sprint now.”
Meanwhile, among the future stars of the sport, Bailey Forrest won the girls 13 and under race in 23:39 and Connor Reinders won the boys 13 and under category in 22:48.
Also making his way across the dam on Sunday was former world champion Gerhard Zandberg who represented South Africa at four World Championships and two Olympic Games, but chiefly in the far shorter backstroke events.
“It was quite far. Maybe at 500-600m you start looking up and seeing if it’s getting any closer,” he admitted with a laugh. “I think because you’re swimming in a straight line it’s difficult to judge how far you’re going. It’s tough for me. I like the shorter stuff. To swim for 20-25 minutes full speed in choppy water is a challenge but I like it, it’s fun. It’s my fourth one.”
Elsewhere, Ebrahim Mahomed from Pietermaritzburg was determined to finish his first ever aQuellé Midmar Mile. It took him 1 hour 28 minutes and 5 seconds but that didn’t matter. The disabled swimmer, who received a massive cheer at the finish, explained: “My daughter has been swimming for the last two or three years and I only learnt how to swim last year after watching her swim.
“It was a fantastic experience. I did it yesterday but there was some lightning so they stopped the race for safety reasons when I had about 300m left, so I wanted to do it again today. It was tough today after yesterday’s race but we managed,” he added, joking that his next mission is to beat his daughter.