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Ho and Weber make it a great day for SA with Midmar Mile double
- Updated: February 15, 2016
It was a proudly South African day in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday as Chad Ho claimed a record seventh aQuellé Midmar Mile title in succession and Michelle Weber become the first South African woman to take victory since Melissa Corfe back in 2003.
The reigning 5km open water world champion and a 2008 Olympian, Ho was pushed hard by his training partner Matthew Meyer, with Meyer winning each of the hotspots at 400, 800 and 1200 metres, but the five-kilometre open water world champion pulled clear over the last 400 metres to secure a hard-fought but convincing victory in a time of 17:00, which improved the race record he had set last year by four seconds.
‘I knew Matthew was going to be a challenge,’ Ho said after winning the world’s largest open water swimming event. ‘He is swimming incredibly well in the pool, about a 15:25 for 1500 metres. I tried to stick with him.
‘I knew he was trying to go for the hotspots. I didn’t try too much to fight him for them. I tried to reserve my energy for the end and for the last 400m, because I knew that was when it would count the most.
‘Just after the last hotspot, I shifted a bit to the left and shifted gear. I saw that was when he fell behind and that is when I really put heart into it and went for the finish.’
Michael McGlynn, a most consistent performer in the Midmar Mile over the years, finished in third place, with Danie Marais in fourth and Josh Dannhauser placing fifth.
Weber, a 2014 Youth Olympian in China and who also flew the South African flag in open water swimming with Ho at the Fina World Championships in Kazan, Russia, last year, powered off of the starting line to take an early lead in the women’s race.
Immediately after she’d claimed the first hotspot, British swimmer Holly Hibbott moved up on to her shoulder, with Charlise Oberholzer joining them at the front of the field. Hibbott was first through halfway, but at the 1200m mark she and Weber could not be separated.
At the business end of the race, however, Weber put in a spurt to pull clear of Hibbott and capture a win she had been dreaming about: ‘This is my ninth time doing the Midmar Mile, my sixth time trying to win the race. It is something that I wanted for so long. I’m so happy. It’s been one of my goals for such a long time to win this race,’ she said with a big smile.
Weber added: ‘I thought to myself “there is no way a British girl or anyone else is going to win this year”. I thought ‘South Africa has to win. With a race in South Africa, that is only right.’
Oberholzer, one of the youngest members of Team South Africa at last year’s African Games in Brazzaville, Congo crossed the line in third, with seasoned campaigner Rene Warnes in fourth and Carmen le Roux (also part of the SA team in Russia last year) in fifth.
There was also an incredible swim from former South African swimming great Paul Blackbeard, who travelled from Australia for the event. Competing in the 51-60 age group, he left much younger opposition in his wake to win his age group and the race (apart from the 8 Mile Club’s Tyrone Kruger) in a record time of 19:30.
‘It was a little bit choppy, but not too bad. I have actually swum the Midmar Mile when it has been a lot worse,’ the 1977 champion said. ‘The wind behind me helped as well. I was hoping for around 20 minutes, so I was pleased with that.’
A group of eight swimmers swam 16 miles to raise funds for the Dusi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct), with Gary Albertyn consistently finishing near the front of each event and helping his family claim the family relay title on Saturday.
It was confirmed yesterday that the money raised for charities had already topped the R1.5-million mark. The total entry for this year’s event was over 12 000 swimmers.
1 Chad Ho 17:00
2 Matthew Meyer 17:03
3 Michael McGlynn 17:38
4 Danie Marais 17:44
5 Josh Dannhauser 17:44
6 Tyrone Kruger 17:46
7 Marwan el Kamash (Egy) 17:51
8 Jordan le Clos 18:09
9 Brendan Levy 18:13
10 Reuben Schoeman 18:14
1 Michelle Weber 19:10
2 Holly Hibbot (GBR) 19:12
3 Charlise Oberholzer 19:17
4 Rene Warnes 19:34
5 Carmen le Roux 19:38
6 Lucy McKenzie (GBR) 19:53
7 Marné Frylinck 20:48
8 Sasha-Lee Nordengen 21:01
9 Jessica Whelan 21:01
10 Dané Steyn 21:05