Riddin quits Midmar Mile

2015-09-24 09:04
Wayne Riddin

Wayne Riddin (Supplied)

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AFTER serving as the event organiser for 25 years, Wayne Riddin will step down after the 2016 edition of the Midmar Mile, the world’s largest open water swimming event.

“It’s just time for a change,” he told T

he Witness yesterday. “I need to stand down for personal reasons.”

However, it is clear that the pressure of organising the iconic race has over time taken its toll on Riddin, and the deaths of two swimmers, one in 2014 and one in 2015, hit him hard.

During his time in charge, over 300 000 swimmers made it safely across the Midmar Dam, but the two deaths, bringing to three the number of participants who had drowned while he was the organiser, proved to be the tipping point. The third, Nico Mellet, died in 2011.

When Riddin took charge of the Midmar Mile, it had only just achieved a field of 3 000 swimmers.

More recently, the entry figures had topped the 17 000 mark. With the expansion and popularity of the event, Riddin led the way as the Midmar Mile became the worldwide standard-setter for open water swimming events.

Steve Munatones, an International Swimming Federation (Fina) technical committee member for open water swimming, and coach of the USA’s national team at numerous open water World Championships, was blown away on his first visit to the Midmar Mile in 2011. “It sets the worldwide bar in every category,” he said.

Yet despite the massive effort put into safety, it was Riddin who bore the brunt of public criticism, mostly on social media, when Thabo van Straten and Tristan Dennis drowned during the 2014 and 2015 events respectively.

Riddin said: “I did it because I wanted people to enjoy it. These incidents just tell me it’s my time to go. It’s not an easy situation at all.”

With the former South African Olympic swimming coach in charge, Pietermaritzburg Seals, the Midmar Mile’s organising club, received money to build an outstanding indoor swimming centre. It has hosted numerous SA Short Course Swimming Championships, seen world records set in the pool, and seen seven Olympic swimmers produced — Daryl Cronjé, Brendon Dedekind, Ryk Neethling, Terence Parkin, Theo Verster, Darian Townsend and Nick Folker. It has also enabled the club to establish three satellite clubs in Durban North, Ballito and Hillcrest.

“It’s the centre that you have at Seals that shows where the money has gone,” Riddin explained. “Everybody thinks I have put money in my pocket. I am the one that has been a fair bit of a sponsor for Seals and the Midmar Mile along the way.”

A number of people, who did not wish to be named, said Riddin had earned little from the event.

Despite his success in growing the Midmar Mile, Riddin said he had been disappointed by the lack of support from Swimming SA, KZN Aquatics, the Msunduzi Municipality and the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation.

“One year only, the municipality came forward with R100 000. They reaped the benefits,” he said.

In response, Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Madelaine Jackson said the Midmar Mile didn’t fall within their jurisdiction, therefore it wasn’t one of their priorities.

“The short answer to that is we don’t have a vast budget for events, and when we do put any money into events, we do prioritise those events that take place within our immediate environment within the city,” Jackson told The Witness yesterday

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  midmar mile

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