This year’s 44th edition of the aQuellé Midmar Mile at the weekend was hailed by many as the best yet. This was not because the men’s race was deemed to be an exciting classic that saw seven-time champion Chad Ho narrowly beaten by Matthew Meyer, or Ashley Twitchell show her class and pedigree in the women’s race, but the near-perfect conditions, unmarred by any serious incidents.Despite a big thunderstorm on Saturday night, the weather at the dam was stifling and on the water, a slight breeze wasn’t enough to deter the swimmers or change any game-plans. A kaleidoscope of tents and colour dappled the banks of the dam and spirits were high among swimmers and spectators alike. While it was evident how much the water level has dropped in recent months, there was enough for the mile and the show went on. Saturday saw the first four races and yesterday saw the highly anticipated women’s and men’s races rounding off another year.While the competitive winners deserve their moment in the spotlight, the race brings people of varying ages, races, sizes and physical ability together with the majority of the swimmers completing a challenge, getting another precious medal, or raising funds for noteworthy causes. One such group was the 8 Mile Club, whose swimmers completed every race and going one better, the 16 Mile Club, who swam each race and then swam back to the start for the next one. Cancer charity the Pink Drive was much in evidence and by mid-morning yesterday, an estimated R2 million had been raised for charity.Schools traveled from far. Eunice High School from Bloemfontein was one of many, with 181 girls participating while a quarter of the Drakensberg Boys Choir swam. An intrepid group of three swimmers swam the men’s race doing butterfly the whole way. In the women’s race, Carey Kirkman used the event as some practice for August this year where she is one of a six-member relay team swimming 69 km up Lake Geneva to deliver a petition to the United Nations for the freedom of West Papua.But the hero of the whole weekend was American Craig Dietz (43), who made his second visit to the event having swum two miles in 2013, when he first visited SA. Born with no arms or legs, he completed seven miles this past weekend, swimming with Pietermaritzburg swimming teacher Odette Randelhoff, who personally had raised close to R50 000 for the Pink Drive. Dietz finished the men’s race in less than 33 minutes and now has nine miles to his name.“This is the ultimate long distance swim and having been here in 2013, I had to return. There is nothing like this in America and it is an unbelievable experience. “The venue, the organisation, the people, the whole atmosphere is something to remember and can never be forgotten,” he said.Asked whether he will return next year, Dietz said it was too soon to decide but if not next year, then in the near future.Rescue and lifesaving personnel on the water reported no major mishaps and on dry land — the most serious incident of the weekend was a woman camper who slipped while hanging up clothes and broke her leg.