The opening day of the 2014 aQuellé Midmar Mile got underway in near perfect conditions however Mother Nature soon dealt the internationally renowned open water swim event a cruel hand as strong winds brought about one meter high swells, heavily impacting on the day’s final two races.
With exceptional swells running freely across the surface of the water, organisers were left with no choice but to restrict the final event to participants 13 years-old or older, while offering all those unable to or uncomfortable with taking on the testing conditions the opportunity to change their entry to one of Sunday morning’s events.
With conditions far from ideal, the Family Relay was left in tatters as, despite the majority of the participants supporting the organisers’ ‘safety-first’ approach, some were left without a full team after their junior members were banned from participating.
Earlier in the day the Mr Price Sport Athletes team stole the show in the Company Relay, finishing almost two minutes ahead of the 8 Mile Club, while the Non-Company Relay saw Varsity College take the spoils ahead of the 8 Mile Club and Three Dragons.
Sunday sees the stars of open water swimming come out to play and hoping to lead the troupes home for a record fifth consecutive time will be Chad Ho.
Ho, having already become the first person to win the event four times in a row, enjoyed a light pre-race hit-out on Saturday as he looked to familairise himself with his surroundings once more and confirm his preferred line against the dam’s currents and swell, which Saturday’s final race competitors had to deal with constantly.
“The choppy conditions don’t faze me too much,” said Ho after his Saturday warm-up. “We could have worse conditions tomorrow. We could have better. You’ve just got to deal with what is front of you on the day.
“I’m feeling pretty loose and feeling really ready. If (Saturday’s) swim is anything to go by, I’m going to have a very good swim on Sunday,” he added.
Likely to once again be hot on Ho’s heals is fellow Durbanite Troyden Prinsloo as he looks to break a string of silver medal Midmar Mile performances and claim his third career title.
Having blitzed his way onto the international circuit in 2013, Myles Brown comes into the 2014 aQuellé Midmar Mile as a true title dark horse with some secretly believing he now has what it takes to overcome his better-known rivals.
“I’ve been putting in some really big work, doing about 120 kilometers a week, so coming back from [the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series] in Pert and trying to deal with the jet lag has made it tough this week,” Brown described.
“I’ve just been trying to do big mileage, to get it out of the way for the Senior Nationals coming up in April.
“I definitely took the wrong line last year. I stuck to the right. I tried to stay away from the pack. Unfortunately, in open water, you can’t really go out on your own unless you’re a really experienced swimmer. I tried last year and I took the wrong line, which didn’t work out for me and so I’m definitely going to be using a different tactic this year,” he added.
The women’s clash is expected to be dominated by American Ashley Twichell as, despite carrying a slight shoulder injury, the young star looks to repeat her victorious effort of 2013 having narrowly been edged out into second place in 2012.
“The shoulder is okay. I woke up this morning and it was fine. It hasn’t bothered me too much, so I’m going to ice it this afternoon and hopefully it’ll be fine for Sunday,” said Twichell.
“I never really know when it is going to flare up. It has been good today. There have been times I can’t race because I literally have no range of motion, but it hasn’t got that bad in a while,” she added.
Initially Twichell would have expected to have been pushed hard by aQuellé Midmar Mile regular top performer Keri-anne Payne however the Brit’s decision to take on the 8 Mile challenge in 2014 may hamper her ability to stay with Twichell in the closing stages of the women’s 14-30 years-old clash.
“It’s great [doing the Eight Mile Club],” said Payne. “That first swim Lexi (Kelly), Ashley (Twichell) and I swam together and it was really nice taking it easy and enjoying do it for once rather than the hectic pressure and nerves you get when you’re really racing.
“I’ll give it a go,” Payne added about Sunday’s main encounter.
“What state I will be in, that’s still to be decided,” she laughed.
Like Payne, Twichell’s fellow American – Lexi Kelly – will also be hoping to in the podium mix as will a returning to form Michelle Weber of South Africa.
“It was beautiful today, the dam is the right temperature and I have never seen so many swimmers in a race before! It’s been an amazing experience!” said Kelly.
Sunday’s action gets underway with the women’s and then the men’s under 13 years and over 30 years-old races before the 14-30 years old women’s and then men’s clashes take place.
The main races of the aQuellé Midmar Mile take place on Sunday 9 February at the Midmar Dam, just outside Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. For more info visit www.midmarmile.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
2014 aQuellé MIDMAR MILE
1.Mr Price Sport Athletes 1:01.32
2.8 Mile Club 1:03.22
3.PinkDrive 8 Mile Club 1:07.52
1.Varsity College 1:04.29
2.8 Mile Club 1:12.57
3.Three Dragons 1:13.00