Durban — Thousands of local and international competitors have made their way to KwaZulu-Natal for two iconic sporting events, the 51st aQuellé Midmar Mile and the Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Organisers of the aQuellé Midmar Mile said swimmers from 37 countries would participate in this weekend’s event and its entries were expected to meet or exceed last year’s 8 500 participants.
Australian Nick Sloman is one of the favourites to win the men’s elite race on Sunday and is aiming to break Chad Ho’s 2016 record of 17 minutes flat, after he narrowly missed the mark by one second five years ago.
However, South African Matthew Caldwell, from Bedfordview, is determined to put up a solid challenge.
Caldwell came first in the final Midmar seeding event in Midrand, winning the 1.5km race in 17 minutes 33.
“I’m hoping to win – that would be very nice – but definitely a top three,” reckoned the 17-year-old.
The elite women’s race is up for grabs as last year’s champion Sharon van Rouwendaal will not be back to defend her title. However, Carli Antonopoulos, who finished sixth last year, hopes this is her year to take the top spot.
She said every elite swimmer wanted to win the Midmar Mile at least once and so that was definitely her goal.
“It’s always fun being able to race against some international swimmers. We get the opportunity to learn from them,” she said.
“You can never go into Midmar overly confident. It’s one of the toughest mile races for me as it’s just a straight line and you never know what the conditions will be like. Going in, I know I can rely on the training I’ve done and hopefully put together a good swim on the day,” said Antonopoulos.
The aQuellé Midmar Mile will also pit two well-known elite swimming families against each other: the Albertyns from Pretoria and the Markgraaffs from Centurion, who will compete in various categories.
Meanwhile, Gail Bristow and Martin Godfrey will both be swimming for records when they take on the Midmar for the 50th time this year.
Tourism KZN (TKZN) said the back-to-back sporting events which started this week and carry on until next weekend were expected to provide a multimillion-rand economic boost to the region.
“KZN is globally renowned for hosting world-class sporting events which are a key driver for tourism, so events like these are important to the growth of the sector. Research insights indicate that sportsmen and women bring their families for support and are likely to add a few days before and after the event to enjoy some of the tourism offerings in the area,” said TKZN’s acting CEO Sibusiso Gumbi.
He said 2018 research showed that the combined economic impact of the two iconic events attracted close to 24 000 visitors to the Midlands and injected an estimated R148 million into the regional economy.
Independent on Saturday