Age and disability no obstacles for Midmar Mile swimmers

2012-02-13 00:00

THERE were thousands of winners at Midmar Dam at the weekend.

As each of them came out of the water, spectators cheered their courage and accomplishment.

Matthew Meyer, a pupil at Durban’s Clifton College, not only won the U13 race.

He also beat his heroes, Terence Parkin and Ryk Neethling.

U13s and men over 30 swam in the same race.

Last year Meyer won the U13 event, but finished second overall after Parkin.

“This is a dream come true,” he said.

Loud cheers greeted Adri Visser when she crossed the line, winning in the disabled category.

Having swum with only one leg — her remaining limbs have been amputated —Visser described her race as enjoyable but challenging.

“Conditions were very difficult with the waves,” she said. “I hope that I am an inspiration to people. If I can swim the Mile then anybody can do it. All you need to do is be positive and push yourself beyond your limits,” said Visser.

Huge applause also greeted blind swimmer Leigh-Ann Birney, who has twice swum the Midmar Mile.

“This is really a fun race and, like the Comrades Marathon, a real achievement of the human spirit,” she said, slightly out of breath.

“There is such a fun atmosphere and I love coming back and doing this race.”

Lorna Cochran (88), the oldest swimmer this year, said she was a bundle of nerves just before the start.

“When I stood on the starting line this morning I realised that maybe I am getting a bit too old for this,” she said straight-faced.

Swimmers woke up to mild and overcast conditions on Saturday morning and a brisk early morning wind picked up across the water, making swimming conditions challenging.

Cochran was the last swimmer out of the water in the first race on Saturday, finishing in one hour and 20 minutes.

Swimming alongside her was her son Neil (61).

“Swimming next to your mom is really special,” he said.

“Most people can’t walk at 88 years old, and my mother is swimming her 14th Midmar Mile.

“And she was doing well. I train a lot of endurance athletes and her splits were on par with athletes 30 years her junior,” he said.

Cochran had previously said this year’s would be her last race, but her son hinted she would return next year.

“We’d really like her to swim next year when the Mile turns 40, but we must remember that she will be 89, so it all depends on how she ages over the next year,” he said.

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