There's the cycle tour, two marathons so let's save this other Cape sporting gem

By Mark Keohane Time of article published Oct 4, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – Earlier this year in this column, I wrote of the Sanlam Cape Mile at Eikenhof Dam in Elgin-Grabouw being the best-kept secret on the Western Cape and South African sporting scene.

I likened the event to the Cape Town Cycle Tour, described it as a sporting gem and wrote that it touched the soul because of the participants’ incredible stories of endurance, resolve and achievement.

Mostly, it was an event that spoke to a community. It had the “feel-good” factor because everything about the day was inspiring.

The event was into its fifth year and had organically doubled in numbers of swimmers. The media exposure had been limited over this period, but that did not detract from the quality of the occasion.

Sanlam had been the only sponsor and I urged corporates to see the value in an association with an event like this because it was more than a sporting event.

The message was about health, community interaction and aspiration. It was an event that involved an entire family, with kids as young as 8 competing and adults in their eighties finishing the mile.

At a time in our country where there was such negativity and gloom, this was a day that made everything sparkle.

I was convinced that corporates would add more muscle to the event and give the city another reason to attract international visitors.

Cape Town already had the Cycle Tour and the Two Oceans and the Cape Town marathon. Now it would also have an open mile swim to make it a trifecta of run, cycle and swim in four events that each year would only get better.

The initial feedback I got on the article reinforced my appreciation for what I experienced. So many people who took part had the most remarkable of stories to tell.

There were the elite champion swimmers, but more moving were the stories of those who had overcome disability, illness and various other obstacles to make it into the water and conquer the mighty mile and turn it into a magical mile.

Claudia Dieckmann was among those extraordinary stories. Dieckmann was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2011 at the age of 31. Dieckman, in the past two years, led the Team Swim4MS, who in two years have raised R150000 for MS sufferers.

The event appeared to be a sponsor’s dream because of the association with aspiration, inspiration and health. It also gave such access to an entire family, from cradle to grave.

This week I was stunned to get an email to say the mile would not take place in 2020 because Sanlam had discontinued the sponsorship and the organisers had been unable to secure a replacement.

This is a plea to corporates who want to give back to the community to try to save the mile and ensure its longevity on the Cape’s seductive sporting calendar. So much is so easily given to the sporting big three of soccer, rugby and cricket, yet this corporate investment speaks primarily to the sport’s elite.

Imagine if the Cape Town Cycle tour, now into its forties, was canned after five years?

In this column, I wrote that the Cape Mile has the capacity to grow into a sporting event that offers so much more than a race time.

I wrote that I saw families, kids, grandparents and every body shape come out of that dam. I saw joy and experienced euphoria with, and on behalf of, every swimmer.

Cape Town’s social swimmers need the Cape Mile to live on. If not corporate, then the City of Cape Town, please save this event.


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Mark Keohane is a Cape Town-based award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media.

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