Ho triumphs at Midmar Mile
Chad Ho (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)
Howick - It was a day of records at the Midmar Mile as Chad Ho became the race's biggest winner, Ashley Twichell became the first US winner of the race, and the event broke its own record as the world’s biggest open water swim on its 40th anniversary.
Twenty-two-year-old Westville star Ho led from the gun the men's race, and took the early hotspot comfortably. However Troyden Prinsloo surged into contention at the halfway mark and was swimming at the hip of the champion.
Ho stuck to his game plan, and once he has bagged the last hotspot at the 1 200m mark, he sifted up a gear to drop Prinsloo, and romp home to claim a popular win.
As he crossed the line he blew a kiss to his late grandmother, who he said had been in his thoughts throughout the race.
“I knew I had some good speed coming into the race," said Ho.
"I’ve been doing a lot of speed work in training, so if I was in the front I could kick down and take it to the finish. To get three in a row was a big achievement and it was a goal I was after. I said I wanted to go for four. Now that I’ve got four, maybe I can win a fifth next year.”
Prinsloo finished second, 11 seconds behind Ho and admitted he had been beaten by the better man on the day.
“I tried to chase Chad. I tried to pass him, but he just had better speed than me today," said Prinsloo.
“This is different for me (competing over a shorter distance than 10km). It’s hard trying to compete against Chad over a mile, he’s got so much speed and he knows the course so well.”
Danie Marais finished in a very strong third place. Like Ho and Prinsloo, his forte is open water swimming, but Marais is also a 10km specialist, so was delighted with his swim over the much shorter mile.
“Chad and Troy were just too fast,” he conceded. “It is my best swim in the Midmar Mile. Last year I came sixth and now I’m third. I’m picking up and I’m getting stronger. We do 10ks, this is like a sprint for us!,” he added.
The victory in the women's race for Los Angeles based Ashley Twichell was sweet revenge for her narrow loss to Payne last year when she was outsprinted up the slipway to the finish by the British star.
“That was definitely a lot of motivation,” Twichell said after a convincing victory in 19 minutes and seven seconds, 15 seconds clear of Payne. “Last year was a really close race and I got touched out in a few big races. So, I was trying to get far enough ahead because I didn’t want it to be a close finish.”
Having captured the women’s title in the world’s largest open water swimming event, Twichell said she was keen to defend her title in 2013. “I would love to come back. Last year was my first year and I was really excited to be asked back. It’s an absolutely amazing race. The whole country, the people have been really welcoming. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Payne started training in November only after taking a break following the London Olympics. That left her a little under-done, but she came out to South Africa earlier than in previous years and it was a different experience to her, one which she enjoyed.
“It was good. It was fun. That’s exactly why I wanted to come out here,” she said. “I wanted to try out a few things and to see if my intuition was still there, which it was.
“I do think I took the right line, kind of split from the pack. I managed to get a little bit of a better line into the finish. Towards the end I was trying to catch Ashley. I was just a bit too far off and I kept weaving. But it was good. I really enjoyed it.”
Junior world champion over five kilometres, Michelle Weber, was the top South African finisher, in third place. A former two-time champion in the 13-and-under category, she was thrilled with her performance, especially as she had duked it out with big guns, like Twichell, Payne and Hungarian pool star, Katina Hosszu, who was fourth in her first competitive open water race.
“It was pretty fun," said Hosszu. "I liked it a lot. It’s definitely completely different to the pool. I think I need a lot more experience in the open water.”
The second day of competition was held in warm, windless overcast conditions that made for easy swimming for the massive field, which bettered the event's own world record mark of 13 755 finishers. The final figure will be documented and sent to Guinness World Records for ratification.Results:Men
1.Chad Ho 17:57
2.Troyden Prinsloo 18:08
3.Danie Marais 18:09
4.Mark Randall 18:33
5.Matthew Mark Meyer 18:55
6.Myles Brown 18:56
7.Henri Schoeman 18:58
8.Darien Townsend 19:01
9.Chris McGlynn 19:05
10.Sebastian Roualt 19:13Women
1.Ashley Twichell 19:04
2.Kerry Anne Payne 19:21
3.Michelle Weber 19:29
4.Katinka Hosszu 19:56
5.Rene Warnes 20:05
6.Kyna Pereira 20:12
7.Carmen le Roux 20:32
8.Megan Kate Stephens 20:42
9.Clarice le Roux 20:56
10.Nicole Brits 21:01