4 February 2014
Michelle Weber will be back to spearhead South Africa’s challenge in the aQuelle Midmar Mile this coming weekend after a third place finish last year. However, just being part of the event will be a blessing for the former youth world champion after a challenging 2013.
In finishing third last year, she had followed American star Ashley Twichell and seven-time champion Keri-anne Payne across the finishing line and forced Hungarian superstar Katinka Hosszu, who went on to win the 200m and 400m individual medley at the World Championships in Barcelona, into fourth place.
After that strong showing, Weber was on course for another impressive year and hoping to make a mark in Barcelona a year after winning the first ever World Youth Championships over five kilometres in Canada in 2012.
However, what should have been one of the highlights of her life turned out to be a frightening experience.
‘I had a heart problem’
Recalling what happened at the official press launch for the Midmar Mile in Pietermaritzburg late last week, she told SAinfo : “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’s all back to normal’
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.”
‘I was so, so happy’
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.
The aQuelle Midmar Mile takes place on 8 and 9 February. A significant fund-raiser for charities, it is an event for everyone and participants include swimmers with multiple disabilities through to Olympic champions and world record holders.