6 January 2014
Adventure athlete extraordinaire Sean Conway, after becoming the first and only man in history to swim the length of Britain in 2013, has confirmed his place in the 2014 Aquelle Midmar Mile.
Now based in the United Kingdom, Conway was educated in KwaZulu-Natal, but his father Tony, a conservationist, remains in South Africa and has been at the forefront of the fight to save the rhino for 35 years. Basing his visit around the Midmar Mile, the younger Conway will do his bit to raise funds for the Save the Rhino campaign when he returns to South Africa.
Saving the rhino video
“The last time I was in South Africa, I did a Saving Rhino video, which can be found on YouTube and some of which was filmed at the Midmar Dam, titled ‘Sean Conway in Beckham Spoof for Saving Rhino’,” he explained. “This time I’d like to go and see some of the work that’s being done in the field.
“I’d also like to go back to Hilton and Clifton, where I went to school, and see some of the teachers. Both of those schools very much promoted an adventurous childhood of building forts, camping wild and being outdoors. I owe a lot to them really.
“I’ll also be looking into logistics for my length of Africa run in 2015. There is a lot to plan and I’m looking for South African companies and people to join the project. It’s very exciting.”
Taking on the Midmar Mile is going to be a challenge, he admitted, even for someone that overcame jellyfish, 20-foot waves, testing tides, and bone-aching cold to complete the length of Britain swim. However, it won’t be his first experience of the event.
“I can’t wait,” he enthused. “When I did the swim in 1996, I did it with my school Clifton and I remember the excitement as we all drove there in the bus. I remember all the butterflies as I was on the start line. Hopefully I won’t be as nervous this time, but doing all eight races for charity is going to be tough for me. I’m not a sprinter, so it’s going to be a very different type of swim than what I’m used to.”
Since completing his incredible Swimming Britain challenge on 11 November, life has been a whirlwind for Conway, whose previous exploits include cycling around the world and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a penguin suit. And just to add to those achievements, he did three-quarters of his epic cycle with a fractured back after being run over by a truck in the USA!
‘Anything is possible’
“I had no idea how much the swim would interest people,” he admitted. “It’s certainly captured people’s imagination and I’m currently doing talks, writing the book his fourth and helping people try and think a bit bigger and achieve what they thought couldn’t be done. I was constantly told Swimming Britain wasn’t possible and it just shows that with the right attitude, preparation, and a little bit of luck, anything is possible.”
In an interesting twist, the huge red beard Conway grew to help counteract jellyfish stings during his big swim became a media sensation in its own right. It has since been shaved off – for charity, what else? – but he insists it is on its way back, which will ensure that he will be an easy man to identify at the world’s largest open water swimming event.
The Aquelle Midmar Mile takes place on 8 and 9 February 2014. 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.