Stiff competition for Ho
International swimmers ready to break seven-time winner Chad’s Midmar stranglehold
EARNING a record eighth Midmar Mile title has just got a bit tougher for Chad Ho as he goes up against a defending Olympic Open Water gold medallist and a former 10km world champion.
Midmar race director Wayne Ridden, yesterday revealed that the men’s competition would have more international swimmers who will be looking to break Ho’s stranglehold on the world’s largest open water swim.
Olympic open water champion Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands will be making his Midmar debut this year while 2005 world champion Chip Peterson is also set to line up against Ho.
Ho, who became South Africa’s first gold medallist in the men’s 5km open water event at the 2015 Fina World Championships, won his seventh consecutive Midmar title in 2016.
The South African distance-swimming ace, who finished in 10th place at last year’s Rio Olympic Games will face one of his greatest challenges yet at the Midmar Mile.
Weertman won the Olympic title in an exciting finish which saw Ho earning 10th place just five seconds behind the champion.
“Weertman is coming out for the first time to do the swim, the fact they were separated by five seconds from first to 11th should give us a fairly good men’s race,” Riddin said.
“The men’s race hasn’t really had top internationals for a long time, so Chad has dominated it for seven years.
“If he wins an eighth year in a row then he really deserves the credit, especially if he beatsthe Olympic champion.”
Riddin said dropping down in distance could prove to be the great leveller while Ho also had the advantage of knowing the course like the back of his hand.
“They were all together after 10km (at the Rio Games), it is obviously going to be faster over the mile so it would be interesting to see,” he said. “We also have Chip Peterson from the United States coming out, Ashley Twichell’s (two-time female champion) training partner, so it is great to have a couple of international guys in the men’s race.” Ho could also face some stiff competition from training partner Matthew Meyer, who made his debut at last year’s Rio Olympic Games in the 1 500m freestyle. Meyer led for the majority of the race before Ho took the lead over the final 400m to claim victory in a record-breaking time of 17.00.
“The knowledge of the race and where to swim will be key because you can swim the wrong line,” Riddin said.
“Last year Matthew Meyer led for 1 200 metres and Chad waited to the end to beat him so he will also have a solid chance.”
After skipping last year’s Midmar to prepare for the Olympics, Twichell will be looking to add her third title in the absence of eighttime champion Kerri-Anne Payne, who announced her retirement earlier this week.
Riddin could not confirm whether Michelle Weber, who last year became the first local woman to win the race in 13 years, would be defending her title.