Thousands of swimmers across a wide range of ages and abilities will converge on Midmar Dam in Howick this weekend for the Aquelle Midmar Mile.
Promoted as the world’s largest open water swim, we take a closer look at the annual event.
Former 5km world champion Chad Ho will target a record eighth title as he leads the local charge.
Aiming to reclaim the title he last won in 2016, however, Ho is facing a strong international field which features the likes of British open water star Ashley Hogg and American prospect Brendan Casey.
“The international swimmers definitely add a competitive edge. They push you harder and it makes for great viewing for the spectators. In saying that, it is also not something I allow to cloud my focus. I can only control my swim and how I do on the day, so I choose to remain focused on that.” – Chad Ho
Michele Weber of South Africa, Betina Lorscheitter of Brazil and Alice Franco of Italy in action on the course at Copacabana Beach during the King and Queen of the Sea 2015 on December 13, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Local favourite Michelle Weber is also eager to lift the crown she last won in 2016.
Though she admits it is a wide open battle, Weber will hope to lean on her experience at the race, which included a second-place finish behind Australian opponent Kareena Lee last year.
“I’m not sure who will be the biggest competition this year. You never know what’s going to happen on the day. Open water is strange like that. Conditions change, you can get a wrong line, and it could just not be your day.” – Michelle Weber
While there were apparent concerns following the Mpophomeni Wastewater Works spillage late last year, organisers insisted this week the water was safe.
The sewage spill had contaminated Midmar Dam, but it occurred some six kilometres from the race course and had apparently been sufficiently contained.
“We have done extensive testing and the E.coli levels are in fact lower than and dam in the country, and lower than any of the previous events in the many years I have been involved. There is no way we as the organisers would place the health of thousands of entrants at risk. I myself would be prepared to drink the water at any stage along the course.” – race organiser Wayne Riddin.
Over 12 000 swimmers will participate in the 47th edition of the annual mass swim, to be held over the mile (1.6km) distance.
The two-day swimming festival starts at 8am on Saturday, with multiple relay, team and disability events on the programme.
On Sunday, age group contests will begin at 8.30am, with the elite women’s race set to be held at 11am and the elite men’s event taking place at 12.15pm.
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