Olympic swimmer Michelle Weber targeting Midmar Mile glory
DURBAN – The annual Midmar Mile is “all about the vibe” for Michelle Weber, one of the country's top open water swimming prospects who is targeting her second Olympic Games.
The 2016 champion has been competing in the event from the age of 11, racking up a remarkable record along the way. While she’s all focus and resolve when she’s in the water, it’s what takes place before and after the racing that brings her back each year.
She’ll be returning for the 2020 edition of the world’s largest open water swimming event, which takes place from February 8 to 9 at the Midmar Dam.
“I love the Midmar Mile. I was raised in Umhlanga, so we went up every year for it. I think it’s just so special to me because my family started out just going to open water events for fun.
“We used to camp on the weekend and take a boat out, and our canoes and stuff, and just enjoy the weekend and then have a swim and braai. So I think that’s what makes it so special for me, and it holds a very dear place in my heart,” said Weber.
23-year-old Michelle Weber will be returning for the 2020 edition of the world’s largest open water swimming event, the Midmar Mile, which takes place from February 8 to 9 at the Midmar Dam. Photo: Supplied
Her chief target for the year is competing in the 10km open water swim at her second Olympic Games in Tokyo this August, so the Midmar is not quite as gruelling a challenge, but it will still provide a crucial opportunity for Weber to test herself against some tough competition.
“My training has been going well. It’s an Olympic year, so it’s obviously a really big year for me as well as a lot of other athletes. I think the competition is going to be quite tough on both the men’s and women’s side. Everyone is going to be swimming really fast,” said the 23-year-old, who’s now based in Franschhoek in the Western Cape.
“I love doing the Midmar and I think it’s cool for the Olympics. Firstly because I get to see all my friends and just to get a break, but also it fits into my training schedule for the games – just to see how fast I’m getting and how I’m feeling in the water. It’s great because it’s a month before nationals, so any concerns or anything I feel isn’t right in my training, I can fix very quickly.”
A top-two spot at the national championships will be the first step to qualifying for Tokyo, where only a limited number get the opportunity to compete.
“It’s pretty tight, and it’s hard, because in open water swimming, we only have 25 swimmers in the event compared to pool swimmers, where there are a lot more. It’s hard because conditions change, race tactics change – you need a lot of experience for this, and I’ve been doing this for a while, so I’m pretty excited to see how I’m going to do,” said Weber.