Record entry looms for 40th Midmar Mile

2013-01-29 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG — The last three aQuellé Midmar Mile seeding events — one of them in Bloemfontein and two in Johannesburg — produced record­setting entries, and the Midmar Mile itself is on course for a record field in its 40th year.

“We’ve got a record entry now. We’re not worried about entries anymore, we’re worried we have too many entries,” laughed event organiser Wayne Riddin.

For those who have not yet swum a seeding time or entered, late entries will still be taken at registration, which takes place at the Cascades Lifestyle Centre in Pietermaritzburg on February 6, 7 and 8. Thereafter, entries will be taken at the dam, at an extra cost.

The list of entries received so far suggests that the battle for the men’s title could be one for the ages.

“In the men’s race you’ve got Troyden [Prinsloo] and Chad [Ho], who you are normally expecting to race one another,” Riddin explained. “They were first and second in 2012. Then you’ve got Sébastien Rouault, who is coming out from France. He used to train with Troyden when they were at Georgia University. Then you’ve got Myles Brown, who is probably considered to be the top South African challenger, and possibly also Mark Randall.”

Rouault is a former European men’s champion over 800 metres and 1 500 m, so should be well-suited to the distance, while Brown swam a very fast 7,59,12 to win the 800 m title at the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Perth earlier this month, holding off Australian Olympic 400 m finalist Ryan Napoleon for the victory.

Randall, meanwhile, has recorded a good number of open water victories around the country in the build-up to the Midmar Mile. He has returned from the University of Alabama, where he set freestyle records over 500 m, 1 000 m, and 1 650  yards (1 500 metres). He also represented South Africa in the 1 500 m at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Although he is still concentrating on the pool, Randall is a dark horse that bears watching.

The women’s race is headlined by seven-time Midmar Mile champion Keri-Anne Payne, who is also a two-time world champion over 10 km. American Ashley Twichell should battle Payne the whole way for the title, as she did in 2012, while Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu set the Fina/Arena World Cup Series on fire in the distance events and should certainly challenge for the honours.

South Africa’s talent in the women’s field comes from a younger generation of swimmers. Assessing the entry so far, Riddin said: “I think the international swimmers, like Keri-Anne Payne, will be a little bit above the competition level of our swimmers, although the World Youth champion is Michelle Weber, so she could be one of the top South Africans. Then we can’t write off people like Rene Warnes, who is quite a tough competitor.”

“Marlies Ross is a young up-and-coming swimmer, who has previously won the 13-and-under title at the Midmar Mile, and she’s become really tall and she’s jumping to a senior level quite quickly. Although she’s quite young, she could threaten even Keri-Anne Payne and the other top swimmers.”

There will be another Guinness World Record attempt at this year’s Midmar Mile.

“We’ve already unofficially broken our own Guinness World Record for the world’s largest open water swimming event,” Riddin explained, “but with this being the 40th anniversary of the race, we’re expecting a larger entry than normal to come through because there will be a special medal and cap. Some people come out and swim for those things, so I think it would be nice if we could go over the 14 000 finishers’ mark, but even better if we hit 15 000 for the first time.”

The current record, as recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records, stands at 13 755 finishers.

The biggest highlight for Riddin will, however, be the participation of the Midmar Mile’s founder, Mike “Buthy” Arbuthnot, for the 40th consecutive time. He’s the only person to have achieved that milestone.

“Buthy’s participation is always going to be the special moment,” Riddin reckoned. “We’ve been building up to this for a number of years. The question was how good would his health be as Buthy gets older.

“He’s still fine. I know he is taking cortisone injections because he has a shoulder problem, but he will certainly finish another two Midmar Mile crossings to go to 80 total crossings and finish his 40th consecutive year.”

The Midmar Mile takes place on February 9 and 10 at the Midmar Dam, just outside Howick. For more information, visit www.midmarmile.co.za

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