Durban – Defending Midmar Mile champion Chad Ho believes he is slowly getting back to his best and is confident a fifth successive victory in one of the world's most famous open water races will boost his confidence even further.
The 23-year-old is again the favourite to win the 1.6 kilometres race on Sunday at Midmar Dam, held near Howick, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, having dominated the even in recent years.
Ho, who represented South Africa at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, is one of the most experienced men in the field, but admits to struggling with confidence and form after his initial successes representing the country in the late 2000s.
“I took a bit of a dip in 2011 and 2012, not qualifying for the Olympics (in London), so I lost some motivation and confidence,” he said ahead of the race.
“However, after finishing fourth (5km) and eighth (10km) in Barcelona at the World Championships last year, my confidence is back up there and I know I can compete against the best in the world.
“Hopefully I can continue that kind of performance into this year's Midmar Mile.”
Ho, already writing his own history with four wins in a row, admits there is pressure to try and continue the sequence of wins.
“There is pressure on me as the defending champion to keep on winning. Having won three, then four, in a row has added that little bit more pressure, but I try not to think about it too much.”
His biggest challengers come from two-time winner Troyden Prinsloo, who was runner-up last year, and dark horse, Myles Brown, a previous winner at junior levels in the race.
Ho, though, is unconcerned about his rivals and focused on his own race.
“I just worry about myself and my own race. I can only control that and that's all I really do, just focus on me and the race that I want to swim and take it from there.
“All I try to do is just get to the other side of the dam as quickly as possible. It's about assessing the conditions on the day and plan from there. I just like to stay ahead of the pack and that should be enough.”
In the women's race, defending champion Ashley Twichell from the US is also the favourite, but is likely to face a strong challenge from seven-time winner Keri-Anne Payne of Britain.
Michelle Weber, the top South African in 2013 with a third place finish behind Twichell and Payne will also be aiming to break the foreign stranglehold on the race. – Sapa