The 2014 aQuell├® Midmar Mile women’s clash will be one that will go down as one of the greatest in the history of the iconic 41-year-old event after the cream of the globe’s female open water swimming talent went head to head in search of the prestigious title with American Ashley Twichell narrowly edging out Brit Keri-Anne Payne by just two seconds.
And South Africa’s own Michelle Weber, pictured right, was the first local lady across the line and in so doing, compliments of 5-hour Energy, will be sent over to compete in the Henley Mile in the UK in July.
ÔÇ£I am so stoked, I can’t believe I’ll be going over to compete at the Henley Mile! Especially after my heart op just a few months ago,ÔÇØ said Weber.
Weber, recently featured in the Road to Rio 2016 magazine after she underwent corrective surgery to repair her heart after it repeatedly spiked at over 200 beats per minute at any given time.
ÔÇ£When I said before the event I might finish in the top five, I didn’t know whether I actually even had it in me so I am just so stoked that I came third behind Ashley and Keri-anne who such great competitors,ÔÇØ she added.
Kyna Pereira claimed fourth place and Carmen le Roux fifth to round out the women’s top five for 2014.
Shortly after watching Payne make a brisk start and claim the race’s first hotspot at the 400 meter mark, defending champion Twichell went to the front and refused to relinquish the position for the remainder of tightly-contested clash despite Payne’s constant presence.
ÔÇ£Keri-Anne did get out [the blocks] fast and she is unbelievable but her start didn’t really change things too much for me,ÔÇØ explained a visibly satisfied Twichell afterwards. ÔÇ£I got a little caught up with all the people in the beginning, but I’ve done enough races [to know] to stay calm.
ÔÇ£I knew she was going to go out fast but, although she is an amazing swimmer, I wasn’t too worried as I knew it was her seventh swim this weekend.
ÔÇ£It’s only a mile, compared to my usual ten kilometers, but I knew I had time to get to where I wanted to be.
ÔÇ£It’s a mile ÔÇô about 20 minutes of swimming ÔÇô but I have been working hard on my speed since I changed my training up a little bit. With the 10km last week [at the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Perth], I knew I had good endurance, and then to come here and have that kick at the end, that’s exciting to me to know my training is in a pretty good place,ÔÇØ she added.
Twichell also confirmed her enjoyment of the event and that she hopes to be able to return to compete again in 2015.
“I love this race. With the amount of travelling I do I have to pick and choose which races I focus on. This one is pretty far away from home but it’s one of my favourites,ÔÇØ said Twichell.
ÔÇ£The venue is amazing, the organisation is great, [race director] Wayne Riddin is fantastic and the people are so hospitable, so it’s one of my favourites and I would love to come back!”
For Payne, participating in the 41st edition of the as a part of the 8 Mile Club in the hope of raising funds for the ‘Save the Rhino’ initiative, the women’s battle was no less than the seventh Mile she completed to the water in the space of just two days ÔÇô with her eighth following shortly afterwards during the men’s 14-30 years clash.
Having opted to take 2014 a little more socially before working hard in 2015 in preparation for the Rio Olympic Games, Payne chose to take on the charity challenge instead of focusing all her energies on the women’s title race however an impressive effort from the young Brit in Sunday’s second event ÔÇô the women’s 13 years and younger and 31 years and older race ÔÇô had many wondering whether she may in fact still be able to pull off a miraculous and memorable victory.
ÔÇ£I didn’t feel as if I pushed it that hard in the previous event. I did lengthen my stroke in the second event today, thinking I could get a pretty good warm-up for the women’s race in and then I think the competitive side of me might possibly have come out a little bit towards the end of today’s second swim,ÔÇØ chuckled Payne.
ÔÇ£I felt pretty good after today’s second race so I set myself the goal of making sure I came and gave the women’s race a good go. I had done six miles already this weekend, this was number seven so I knew it was probably going to be tough.
ÔÇ£I just wanted to stick to Ashley (Twichell) as much as I could and see how close I could get to her because I know she’s got a lot of speed at the moment which I managed to do and am so pleased with.
Despite possibly having had the glint of the women’s victory removed from her sparkling achievement of completing all eight events on the weekend’s programme, Payne enjoyed the challenge and looks forward to giving it a go again in the future.
ÔÇ£Swimming eight Miles and raising money for ‘Save the Rhino’ is all for a great cause and I am really excited to be here and do this,ÔÇØ said Payne. ÔÇ£I think now that I’ve got the bug [of swimming in the Eight Mile Club], I’m not sure that I’m going to stop.ÔÇØ
Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
Women 14-30 years-old
1 Ashley Twichell 19.45
2 Keri-anne Payne 19.47
3 Michelle Weber 20.29
4 Kyna Pereira 20.30
5 Carmen le Roux 21.08
6 Erin Gallagher 22.13
7 Tasmin Tennant 22.22
8 Megan van Wyk 22.22
9 Lexie Kelly 22.25
10 Jessica Whelan 22.25