Midmar Mile: ‘nothing to match it’

16 February 2005

The 2005 edition of the Midmar Mile produced top class performances from the winners, but they weren’t the only ones that caught the eye. Some swimmers impressed with their remarkable endurance, while others showed off tremendous courage as the world’s largest open water swimming event drew 17 050 entrants.

Sam Greetham, a member of swimming world governing body FINA’s open water swimming technical committee, was at the Midmar Mile as a guest of the sponsors.

Greetham said he wants to propose to FINA that next year’s SA national championships be held in conjunction with a leg of the World Cup, with the Midmar Mile as the showpiece.

“Nothing I have seen comes anywhere near the Midmar Mile”, Greetham said. “Both in terms of the number of participants, tip-top organisation, security and safety aspects, and the interaction between the participants and the public.”

First-time winner
Troyden Prinsloo, the runner-up in 2004, moved up one position to capture first place for the first time, with a winning time of 18 minutes 28 seconds over the longest distance in the history of the race, 1 639 metres

Just a week prior to the Midmar Mile the dam had started to overflow for the first time since the wall was raised two years ago. The higher water level meant the longest swim yet.

Dutch swimmer Maarten van der Weidien had to settle for second after a tremendous tussle with Prinsloo, 12 seconds in arrears. “I am very satisfied with my performance, I am out of my territory, Troy is more in his as a 1 500 metres specialist”, Van der Weidien said afterwards.

Considering that Prinsloo recently claimed bronze in the World Cup Short Course meeting in Moscow, Van der Weidien probably had a point, but, as Prinsloo pointed out: “Swimming in open water is a totally different ball game to pool swimming.”

Third place went to Gareth Fowler, a former two-time winner of the race, who returned from the Interprovincial Lifesaving Championships in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night only.

Parkin swims all eight men’s races – wins six
Terence Parkin captured fourth spot in 19:10, just two seconds behind Fowler. It was the culmination of a remarkable weekend for the former Olympic silver medalist, who swam all four men’s races on the Saturday and all four on Sunday. His time in the men’s 14 to 30 race was his best of the lot.

Incredibly, Parkin won six of the eight races he entered. His other two finishes were both in the top five. “I would like to do it next year”, he said afterwards.

His eight-race effort was part of a fundraising campaign that the star of the Deaflympics had undertaken to raise money for the SA Deaf Association.

Fifth place went to Pieter Swart, followed by Shaun Dias, one of the stars of the Telkom Virgin Active Challenge Series, and 14-year-old Chad Ho.

Successful title defence
South African-born Kerri-Ann Payne, now swimming for Britain, was successful in her defence of the women’s title that she won in record time in 2004, when the dam was at a very low level.

Her main challenge came from Dutch 25 kilometre open water champion Edith van Dijk, who finished 12 seconds in arrears of Payne’s winning time of 18 minutes and 43 seconds.

South Africa’s Melissa Corfe, who had exhibited impressive form in Moscow at the World Cup, winning bronze in the 400 metres, fell off of the pace after 400 metres, and had to settle for third, more than half a minute behind Van Dijk.

Cheryl Townsend followed in fourth, with Payne’s clubmate Kate Whitfield coming home in sixth ahead of Lauren Bezuidenhout and Kathryn Meaklim.

Courage Trophy
Sibusiso Mogale, a 17-year-old from Johannesburg, captured the hearts of spectators and the Courage Trophy after he finished tenth in the race for disabled swimmers.

Mogale has no arms, but he didn’t allow that to hold him back, as he finished in a time just under 40 minutes. He admitted that the race was tough, saying he used all four strokes on his way to finishing the race. But he felt wonderful afterwards: “I am so proud. It was difficult, but I made it”, he said.

Guy Cooke, aged five, was the youngest swimmer to finish the 2005 event, while 81-year-old Lorna Cocharan was the oldest finisher.