Weber is the one to beat at Midmar

2014-02-04 00:00

IF American Ashley Twichell wants to claim a second straight Midmar Mile title, she will have to do so by beating South Africa’s best hope, Michelle Weber to first place.

Weber could only finish in third place last year as Twichell broke Briton Keri-Anne Payne’s stranglehold on the race. Seven-time winner Payne was gunning for a fifth straight title when Twichell pipped her to the finish last year.

After winning over 5 km in Canada during the 2012 World Youth Championships, Weber was hoping to make a splash in Barcelona last year, but was prevented from doing so by an unexpected health problem.

“During the open water World Championships in Barcelona, I had a heart problem, where my heart was beating 240-plus beats per minute.

“It was scary. At first, I was terrified. I thought I would have to stop swimming, but luckily I got to see a cardiologist just in time; I was really relieved.”

Weber’s problem was caused by adrenaline, “so when I became excited or when I had a race my heart rate would go up and then I would stop and I just couldn’t carry on,” she explained.

It was just two weeks after the World Championships that she underwent a heart procedure. “Most people have two major pathways to their heart. I had an extra one, so they just burnt that off. Now it’s all back to normal and I am back to training,” Weber said. In fact, she was back in the water after a break of only four weeks.

Assessing her current form, she said: “My fitness is getting a lot better. I’m not in peak form, but I’m really happy where I am at the moment.

“I think I am in good enough form to compete for a place in the top five. I’m just going to try my best. I always go to Midmar to have fun. That’s the main thing.”

Looking back on her showing in 2013’s Midmar Mile, Weber said: “Last year, I was so excited, even shocked after the race. I was so, so happy.”

Now, the former two-time girls’ 13-and-under champion at the world’s largest open water swimming event, will have another opportunity to challenge some of the world’s best open water swimmers again, and no matter where she finishes, the fact that Michelle Weber will be in the race will be a victory in itself.

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