Stiff com­pe­ti­tion for Ho

In­ter­na­tional swim­mers ready to break seven-time win­ner Chad’s Mid­mar stran­gle­hold

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

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.

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