Interest in Sunday's Midmar Mile, the world's largest open-water swim, has intensified after the good showing on Thursday of some of the visiting long-distance swimmers in the Olympic-distance 10km marathon at Midmar Dam.

In the men's event, Christiaan Reichert, of Germany, beat Brian Ryckeman, of Belgium, by just 18 seconds. Reichert won in two hours, one minute and 18 seconds, ahead of Ryckeman and the race's pace-setter, Tyrone Venter, whose time was 2.04:49.

Venter led for the first 5km of the four-lap race but was overtaken during the second half by the fast-finishing Europeans.

Notable for their absence were several top South African open-water swimmers, such as Olympian Chad Ho and Riaan Schoeman, who would probably have put a different slant on the race.

Ho will have to be on top form tomorrow as he tries to win his first Midmar title against 2008 winner Shaun Dias and two up-and-coming swimmers, Chad le Clos and Jasper Venter.

British Olympic swimmer Keri-Ann Payne has won the women's race on three consecutive occasions, in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

After giving it a miss last year - to prepare for the Beijing Olympics - she is back looking for a fourth title.

With her is Cassie Patten, another high-calibre member of the British swimming team, who was third in 2006.

But there is also South African talent that is aiming to win the women's title back after Erika Hajnal, of Hungary, pipped South African Olympian Melissa Corfe on the timing pads last year after the two had slugged it out for most of the distance.

New on the scene will be another Durban Olympian, Kathryn Meaklim, who has been enjoying a great deal of success in the pool over the past 12 months but who is now trying to prove she can also swim in open water.

Watch out

However, she will have to watch out for the winner of the women's 10km event on Thursday, Nadine Pastor, of Germany, who finished fourth overall in 2.05:35 to beat three British swimmers, Charlotte Woolenscroft (2.07:11), Alice McCall (2.16:28) and Belinda van der Merwe (2.51:36).

Late entries for each of the eight swimming events cost R220, and will be taken at the dam today (Saturday) and Sunday.

The full squad of British swimmers taking part are accompanied by British Swimming open water team manager, Mark Perry, and head coach, Sean Kelly.

Apart from Payne and Patten, the squad includes Katie Whitfield, Woolinscroft, McCall, James Goddard, David Carey, Russell Smith, Scott Gardener and Daniel Vickers.