Midmar Mile family rivalry starts heating up

Gary Albertyn is hoping to defend his 51-60 age-group title at the aQuellé Midmar Mile. | SUPPLIED

Gary Albertyn is hoping to defend his 51-60 age-group title at the aQuellé Midmar Mile. | SUPPLIED

Published Feb 5, 2024


Durban — Two well-known swimming families will reignite their water rivalry during the annual aQuellé Midmar Mile at the weekend.

The Albertyns from Pretoria and the Markgraaffs from Centurion will probably be hoping that the other treads water when they compete in various categories at the Midmar Dam.

While the Albertyns have been dominating the top race results for a number of years, the Markgraaffs have increasingly been crawling their way to the front. Gary Albertyn says if you want to be competitive at the Midmar it takes year round training to be on top of your game. Apart from tackling the gruelling 16-mile Charity Challenge for the 9th time he’s also hoping to defend his 51-60 age-group title.

“But it does get tougher each year because there are guys that are younger than me coming into your age group, also you’re getting a year older but it would be nice if I could,” he said.

Albertyn’s daughter Kaitlyn who gave up competitive swimming a few years back will also be participating in the 8-mile Charity Challenge while his son, Connor, who is participating in the World Aquatics Championships in Doha will arrive in South Africa later in the week to participate in the Midmar Mile. Albertyn said his wife Megan was still recovering from surgery which she had late last year and would be swimming an “enjoyable” not competitive race.

As for the rivalry with the Markgraaffs, he says there probably is a bit of that, but they've known each other for a long time. The Markgraaffs have been involved in swimming since I was young…but I think it's going to be a really good race this year. They are lucky they've got one extra member, we've got four members they've probably got five, but that's okay, it makes for an interesting race,” said Albertyn.

The Markgraaff are also hoping to claim top honour at the Midmar Mile. | Supplied

Meanwhile Ryno Markgraaff claimed top honours in the 41-50 age group with his brother, Henk, coming in second at the final seeding event in Midrand. And to make it a family affair, Henk's son, Carter, took the 13 and under title and his daughter, Leah, finished fourth in the girls’ race.

“We are a family of six. Both my sisters swam [for South Africa] in the late 80s and early 90s, and me and Henk in the late 90s, early 2000s,” said Markgraaff.

The brothers previously competed for Cleveland State University in the USA while Markgraaff also represented South Africa many times on teams that also featured some of the country’s Olympic heroes such as Penny Heyns, Ryk Neethling, Terence Parkin and Charlene Wittstock, the Princess of Monaco. Henk also represented South Africa at junior level at the Triathlon World Championships, and he recently made a comeback to swimming after his children started to excel in the sport.

“I’ve just started training again after a long time not swimming so it’s nice to get back into it. I’m hoping to do well and keep on improving until Midmar,” he said.

The brothers hope that success follows them when they take to the water next weekend. Markgraaff said they were just hoping for a good race.

“It’s always a very challenging age group… it’s a really good race actually, it’s a lot of fun, and both of us are going to be in that race.”

Henk, Carter and Ryno Markgraaff from Centurion will be aiming for top positions at the annual aQuellé Midmar Mile next weekend. | SUPPLIED

Meanwhile, two other swimmers will be setting a different kind of record at the event. Gail Bristow and Martin Godfrey have both completed the Midmar Mile 49 times and aim to make it 50 this year. Godfrey said this goal served as his motivation to train as hard as possible.

“I think that my emotions may run away with me when I exit the water at the finish. My wife will be there and I know that my late dad, who was there when I swam the first one, would be glowing with pride.”

The Midmar Mile takes place from Thursday to Sunday. While pre-entry is now closed certain events will be open for registration at the dam on race day.

Sunday Tribune