Seventy-three-year-old Tommy Gibson is gearing up to take part in this year's aQuellé Midmar Mile. It will be the Benoni resident's third race after he started swimming training at the ‘tender’ age of 71.
"I started running at 63 and about three years ago I developed a back problem. Somebody suggested why don’t I try swimming, so I swapped over to swimming and just absolutely love it," Gibson said.
The sprightly septuagenarian even had a special aQuellé Midmar Mile design tattooed on his calf after his first race.
Gibson trains in a small dam on a private estate because swimming in a pool doesn’t appeal to him.
"It’s a long story, but when I was training for Comrades somebody said I must do cross training and so for the first time I got into a swimming pool and didn’t like it at all. Swim 25m, turn around, swim 25m just wasn’t on. And that’s why when my friend suggested Midmar, I thought it's not like swimming in a pool," he said.
Gibson finished his first aQuellé Midmar Mile in 2022 in a time of 41 minutes 22 seconds, and bettered that the following year with a time of 37 minutes 39 seconds.
Commenting on his training for this year's race, Gibson said he's gunning for a podium finish in the 71 - 80 age category.
"It’s been very good. The weather’s been a little bit funny the last couple of weeks, but it’s good. I’m looking forward to it," Gibson said.
He recently claimed top honours in the same category at the final Midmar seeding event at Prime View Adventure & Leisure in Midrand, where he finished the 1.5km swim in a time of 34 minutes and 13 seconds.
Gibson said he loves that the aQuellé Midmar Mile keeps bringing him back.
"It’s just such a vibe, such a cool event. Open swimming is just such a fabulous event and you’re never too old," the semi-retired engineer said.
The aQuellé Midmar Mile - the world’s biggest open water swimming event - takes place at Midmar Dam in KwaZulu-Natal from February 8 to 11. Entries will still be possible at the dam on race day, but those wishing to enter should allow plenty of time for registration. Also, swimmers are advised that there will be no shuttle service between the finish and start areas, so participants must make their own arrangements to get to the start.