24 October 2012
South Africa’s aQuelle Midmar Mile, the world’s largest open water swimming event, has been voted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHF). The event’s name will be permanently inscribed on the Sea Goddess, the official trophy for the IMSHF.
Midmar Mile organiser Wayne Riddin, who received the news recently, has also been nominated by the World Open Water Swimming Association as its Man of the Year.
Man of the Year Voting
Voting takes place online on the World Open Water Swimming Association Website and runs from 1 November to 31 December. With about 50 000 swimmers in the Midmar Mile database, it is hoped that many of them will take the time to lend their support to his nomination and to the event, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year.
To many South Africans, the work Riddin does may be familiar and par for the course, but (and this has been stressed time and again by overseas competitors and officials) it is world leading and sets the bar for all other events.
‘Imagine 18 000 open water swimmers’
The information in support of Riddin’s nomination, which will soon appear on the Wowsa website, attests to the sterling work he and the Pietermaritzburg Seal Swimming Club have done in organising the Midmar Mile. It reads:
“Imagine 18 000 open water swimmers gathering in one location to compete in a variety of amateur, charity, disabled and elite competitions, in a country where there are only 6 000 competitive swimmers. This is the environment that Wayne Riddin and his team have created in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
“The Midmar Mile is the world’s most exciting open water swimming series of events. From timing systems and buoy placement, from online social media interaction to celebrities, from Special Olympics to professional athletes, the Midmar Mile has it all.
“Its 12 seeding events, its hot spots, its Facebook strategy, its royalty, its aerial coverage, its biathlons, its family teams, its car give-away: there is so much Riddin has created to develop the most extravagant, innovative, comprehensive open water swimming event in the world.”
First year in charge
Looking back to when he first took charge of the event, Riddin, who will be running his 22nd Midmar Mile next year, said the question at that time was whether or not to limit the numbers in the event. That first year he ran it, the total entry increased from around 4 000 to a record 4 890 swimmers, a long way off the current record of 17 300.
He wanted to introduce the individual timing of swimmers and Clive Chapman, who had been in charge of the event for 18 years, decided he didn’t want any part of that. “I can understand why he said that now,” Riddin said, “because numbers mean potential problems.
“When I inherited it from him walking out, it just grew. In the first few years, it grew up to the 10 000-mark and then it jumped again and then we peaked at 17 300. That’s the target we want to break this year because it’s the 40th anniversary.”
Riddin said while he appreciates the recognition that has come the way of the Midmar Mile, the organising club, Pietermaritzburg Seals, and by extension to him, Mike Arbuthnot, one of the three men who first came up with the idea for the event, and who was the driving force behind it should be honoured too.
Arbuthnot, the only man to swim in every year of the Midmar Mile since it began in 1974, will swim in two of the 2013’s nine events to take his total to 80 Midmar Mile swims at the age of 80.
“I’m honoured that I will be able to be there and watch him do it,” Riddin said, “because it’s not going to happen again.”
He added: “He kept the [event’s] momentum going [in its early years] and you must remember that he’s also originally a Seals’ swimming club member, playing waterpolo and swimming for the club, and he’s now a Masters’ swimmer and he’s still doing the same thing.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who can show the type of loyalty that he’s shown to the swimming club and an event like the Midmar Mile.
“In actual fact,” Riddin continued, “when you look at it, and you see these awards coming the Midmar Mile’s way and my way, as an organiser.they should have a look at ‘Buthy’. I don’t think there is anybody in the world who has swum an event 40 years in a row like he has. It’s something that needs to be brought to their [Wowsa’s] attention, and I’m quite sure it will come their way.”
He added: “The helicam [filming] guys who we introduced to the world stage have just been given an award too. Because of that, we should highlight the fact that the guy who is the founder of the event is still swimming 40 years later.”
Online entries for the 2012 Midmar Mile are open on www.midmarmile.co.za, where a list of seeding events can also be found.
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