'Spreading a little love': Grey skies do little to dampen Valentine’s Day spirits

2010-02-15 00:00

THE words “I’m single!” appeared in thick black marker on the back of a swimmer at the Midmar Mile yesterday.

Many participants were branded with hearts and sayings to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Midmar style.

“We thought we’d spread a little love,” said Crysanne Yiannopoulous of Johannesburg, who had painted a bright red heart on to her cheek.

Grey skies and thick clouds did little to dampen the festive vibe.

Thousands lined Midmar Dam’s banks to cheer on the 16 000 registered swimmers.

The water was busy too. Officials stood on makeshift floating platforms giving direction to lifeguards on paddle-canoes. Navy regiments steered boats between the bright yellow buoys.

Thousands of swimmers swam one mile (1,6 kilometres) from one bank to another.

Some swam competitively, others swam with friends, while still more swam for charity.

Friends and family members helped each other along.

Two girls finished the race by hooking arms, counting to three and placing their feet on the finish mat together.

“We did it!” they squealed, before hugging and high-fiving.

Members of the 8 Mile Club were easily recognisable in gold swimming caps. Over two days, each member swam eight miles for charity. The club raised over R1 million last year.

Olympic medallist Terence Parkin swam twice that — a total of 16 miles at the weekend — to raise funds for a school for the deaf in Johannesburg.

While thousands swam in one direction, Parkin could be seen swimming back in the other to double the distance.

The women’s race was close, one which winner Keri-Anne Payne described as “really great”.

Payne, a self-described “Jo’burg girl”, was born in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2001.

“I totally love Midmar,” she said. “It’s beautiful and makes me think of the times I used to swim at home when I was a kid.”

It was a fight to the finish in the men’s race, and Durban’s Chad Ho won it for South Africa in 18 minutes and 39 seconds.

Vuvuzelas were widely in evidence, and many spectators wore South African football jerseys.

Representatives from the Office of the Premier were out spreading South African cheer by handing out freebies.

Sonto Mayise, a representative of the office, said they hope to “showcase the province and create excitement around 2010”.

Children played impromptu cricket matches and splashed in the water. Terence Parkin’s daughters, Leya (7) and Shayla (4), ran in and out of the water while mom Ingrid kept a watchful eye.

The fun continued after the races as food stalls and performers kept crowds busy.

Idols winner and Howick native Jason Hartman took to the stage after the men’s race.

“Can we come back again next week?” a small boy asked his father as he clutched his hand.

“Next year,” his father said.

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