Payne favoured to retain title

2011-02-12 00:00

CURRENT aQuelle Midmar Mile champion Keri-Anne Payne is strongly favoured to retain her title at the 38th edition of the world’s greatest open-water race that takes place at Midmar Dam this weekend.

Payne, who is without a doubt one of the most popular participants ever to have graced the Midmar Mile, is in good shape having completed a vigorous three-week training camp at the High Performance Centre at Pretoria University under the watchful eye of her coach and mentor, Sean Kelly.

Payne, a silver medallist in the 10 km marathon swimming event at the Beijing Olympics, 2009 Fina 10 km world champion and bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, is in the best shape of her life.

She is ranked number one in the world in the 800 m freestyle. Coupled with her fierce determination that belies her pleasant nature, this will certainly be a contributing factor when the women line up tomorrow morning.

Her training partner, Cassie Patton, a bronze medallist in the 10 km marathon swimming event in Beijing, is also in fine fettle having posted a scintillating two hours and two minutes with a solid performance when she won the 10 km Speedo event at the Midmar Dam on Thursday. Patton indicated after the race that she is hungry for a good performance and will certainly mount a stiff challenge on the day.

Charlotte Woolingscroft completes the “English Rose” challenge at the 38th Midmar Mile and could very well upset her more illustrious team-mates in what will be a competitive duel for line honours.

Brenda Russell from New Zealand, an experienced surf swimmer, is sure to make her presence felt. The former Zimbabwean middle-distance champion has evolved into the leading surf swimmer in the land of the silver fern and currently leads their domestic surf series standings.

Evlin Veratso has shown in the past that she is highly competitive and is also an accomplished open-water swimming athlete. Her past performances at the Midmar Mile have been out of the top drawer and the Hungarian ace is sure to be among the top five finishers.

The KwaZulu-Natal duo of Rene Warnes and Kathryn Meaklim, along with Karlien van Heerden, are three of the fastest local ladies in the field and are sure to give a good account of themselves. The trio with relish the opportunity to lock horns with some of the finest exponents of the discipline in the world.

Heading the group is the dynamic Karlien van Heerden who has emerged as the fastest qualifier from the Midmar Mile seeding events that have taken place throughout the country during the past summer.

Based in Pretoria, the Tuks student has made her mark in open-water swimming circles this season having dominated the Time Freight Series in the Gauteng region.

An accomplished 800 m swimmer, the powerful Van Heerden will carry her form into the epic finale and is sure to be a serious challenger for honours on the day.

Stalwart Kathryn Meaklim is sure to use her vast experience to her benefit when she takes to the water at the event.

Meaklim has experienced a purple patch of late having set a world short-course record in Singapore at the Fina World Cup late in 2010 and has been one of South Africa’s leading women in the pool over the past few years.

An experienced open-water swimmer, Meaklim is sure to be a serious contender for honours.

Rene Warnes has over the years produced some fine performances at the Midmar Mile and is definitely one of the dark horses in this year’s race along with former multiple Mile winner Mellissa Martinson (Corfe), who has made a welcome return to the swimming.

The diminutive Nicol Brits has matured into one of the most promising talents in domestic open-water swimming circles. At just 16 years old, Brits and her training partner, the 14-year-old Michelle Webber, have raised the bar in the KwaZulu-Natal open-water swimming scene this past summer, having dominated all the Midmar Mile seeding events they have in. The determination of both girls cannot be underestimated and they are definitely capable of causing an upset come tomorrow.

The 2011 edition of the world’s largest open-water swimming event is shaping up to be the most competitive in the Midmar Mile’s illustrious 38-year history.

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