Twelve Olympians turn Midmar 2009 into an epic

2009-02-08 00:00

The Halfway Telkom Midmar Mile produced the most exciting racing in the 36-year history of the epic race as no less than 12 Olympians took to the water in the two main races at Midmar Dam yesterday.

Silver medallist in Beijing last year, Keri-Anne Payne from Great Britain, was in an attacking mood to set the tone in the women’s 14-30 years event. She had to first shake off the Hungarian challenge from Evelyn Verralzto as they shared the 400m and 800m hotspots, before breaking away shortly before the 1200m mark to win in 18min 48sec. After the Hungarian faded slightly, Nadine Pastor from Germany surged in the final 200m to steal the second spot just three seconds behind Payne — an excellent race considering she had raced a 10km on Thursday, a 5km on Friday and the mile on Saturday, before tackling the main race.

Leading the South African challenge was Melissa Corfe in fourth place, ending just ahead of Olympic bronze medallist Cassie Patten from Great Britain. Kathryn Meaklim had threatened early in the race without success as she took sixth place ahead of young Rene Warnes, who had a great performance among the Olympians.

Great Britain’s Alice McCall was next with Durbanite Bianca Meyer and another British Olympian, Charlotte Wooliscroft, completing the most impressive top 10 ever in the women’s event.

Then the men’s 14-30 years followed with another exciting result as the organisers had to revert to video footage to declare the winner. However, the tactics from a few swimmers made it hard to predict a winner early on as Riaan Schoeman raced ahead to take the first 400m hotspot before settling back behind the leaders. Chad Ho led for the next 800m as he took the next two hotspots ahead of Hungarian David Verraszto — with defending champion Shaun Dias swimming himself out of contention by opting for the wrong course.

Germany’s Christian Reichert tried hard to surge at the end, but was showing signs of too much sun the day earlier while Belgium’s Brian Ryckeman began to feel the effects of the 10km and 5km races last week.

In the end, it was Schoeman and Verraszto who edged ahead and stood up together to run over the line. After checking the videos and photographs, Schoeman was awarded the victory in 17min 34sec while Ho followed another second later.

Reichert and Ryckeman followed in two- and five-second intervals to take third and fourth places and complete the closest finish ever in the men’s race.

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