Cape Town - British swimming star Ashley Hogg has come nail-bitingly close to victory at the Midmar Mile - and he’s determined this time he’ll top the podium.
Hogg will be one of the main international threats, along with American Brendan Casey, in the main men’s race when the world’s largest open water swimming event takes place at the Midmar Dam from February 8-9.
The 21-year-old university student finished second in 2018 and fifth in last year’s race, but he’s determined to finally get that win under his belt - particularly in Olympic year.
“Coming close to gold a couple of times in the past has taught me valuable tactical lessons, both borne from my errors and others' successes,” he explained.
“I have not only learnt more from coming so close, but I am also more driven to get that win.
“It is an Olympic year, so everybody will be nearing their best in preparation to grab one of the limited Olympic qualifying places. There will be, unquestionably, tough opposition this year, but I am as prepared as possible and excited to see how I stack up.”
Hogg, who is currently completing a Masters degree in chemistry in Manchester, relishes the opportunity to leave his soggy hometown behind for the warmer climes of KwaZulu-Natal each year.
“The Midmar Mile comes at a time when there are few competitions across Europe, and the conditions in the winter months don't lend themselves well to swimming outdoors. It is essential that we keep race-ready during these months, and Midmar allows us to race against the world’s best while in hard mid-season training,” he said.
As for the event itself, Hogg can’t say enough about what it offers visiting swimmers.
“There are very few races that I have been to in any country that can provide the same year-on-year guarantee of a world-class field, a strong sense of welcome and community, and impeccable organisation. This consistency is something that, as an athlete, allows us to focus on what we need to, without worry - swimming fast. This, along with the fantastically warm reception we receive as international competitors, makes for such an enjoyable event. My team-mate, Bailey Hairsine, and I haven't hesitated in coming back for the last three years now.
“Every time I race the Midmar Mile, I am reminded of how kind and hospitable the people are. I find this rings true across the event, from seasoned competitors and first-time swimmers alike. Whether we are racing out of category on our warm-up swims or finding something to eat at lunchtime, there is always a friendly face welcoming us. It is this sense of community, with thousands of people racing for their individual goals, all over two days, which gives the event a unique and special feeling.”
Like with so many other Olympic hopefuls, the Midmar Mile will give Hogg the first chance of the year to test himself.
“Training is currently going to plan. I had a later start to the season than I expected, due to illness, but my times in training are indicating that I'm back on track. I am confident that my endurance training will pay off, as I have started to see. I am still in the very early stages for the season's speed work. Midmar will be the first test of how much speed has been retained through this block of work; that will be key to my success in the main race.”
Already among his list of career achievements is a bronze medal at the 2018 Wuhan Marathon Grand Prix in China, finishing in the top eight at the World Junior Open Water Championships, and claiming top honours at the British Open Water Swim Series. Adding a first Midmar crown to that list would be the best possible start to his Olympic qualifying campaign.
For more information on the Midmar Mile, head to www.midmarmile.co.za