Weber Top SA Finisher as Twichell Wins Midmar

Ashley Twichell became the first US swimmer to win the aQuellé Midmar Mile, taking control of the women's race early on to exact revenge for her narrow defeat on the slipway last year. Photo: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

It was a day of records at the aQuellé Midmar Mile as 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 fortieth anniversary.

The victory in the women’s race for Los Angeles based Ashley Twichell was sweet revenge for her narrow loss to Kerry Anne Payne last year, when she was outsprinted up the slipway to the finish by the British star.

Tasmin-Lee Tennent powers away alone to claim victory in the Girls 13 and Under age group on debut at the aQuellé Midmar Mile. Photo: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media“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 2014. “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.”

Junior world champion over five kilometers, 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.

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.”

Gail Bristow all smiles after finishing her 39th Mile at the aQuellé Midmar Mile. Coupled with her controversial unofficial swim in the first event, when women were not allowed to compete, she is the only female to have completed every edition of the swim. Photo: Anthony Grote/Gameplan MediaThe 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.

Meanwhile, local swimmers dominated the podium on the Sunday morning races at the aQuellé Midmar Mile in warm, windless overcast conditions that made for ideal fast racing, and Durban star schoolgirl Tasmin-Lee Tennant won the day’s first race in the 13-and-under age category, leading the older women home.

Tennant, an 800m freestyle specialist, hit the front early on and maintained her pace to record a very convincing victory in 21 minutes and 52 seconds, over 50 seconds ahead of second-placed Robyn Kinghorn, with Charlise Oberholzser finished third, all from Action Swim Academy.

“I struggled a little bit with my line, but I figured it out in the end,” Tennant said after the victory, which came in her very first attempt at the Midmar Mile. “I tried to hold the same speed the whole way,” she added, revealing the key to her win.

Stalwarts Heather Morris-Eaton and Barbara Bowley won their 31-40 and 41-49 age categories comfortably.

Gail Bristow made the long drive from Cape Town to swim in the Midmar Mile for a 39th time. She did it unofficially in the very first year the event was held in 1974, but that first year women were not officially accepted as entrants.

Bristow completed her swim in a fast 26 minutes and 46 seconds. “Perfect conditions, it was very, very flat. There were lots of little girls kicking around me, but it was a lovely swim.”

After all the years of coming back to the Midmar Mile, Bristow admitted that it still excites her. “I still get the same butterflies, the same nerves, thinking gosh it’s so far when I stand on the other side and look across the dam.”

“As long as I can still swim I will keep coming back,” she beamed.


Summary of Leading Results at the aQuellé Midmar Mile 2013, on Sunday, 10 February, 2013:
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


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