Both the men's and women's headliner races in the world's biggest open water swim, the 36th Halfway Telkom Midmar Mile came down to the finish as 12 Olympians and 17,000+ swimmers took to open water swimming's most famous dam.
Olympic 10K Marathon Swim silver medalist Keri-Anne Payne won her fourth consecutive Midmar Mile in 18:48, 3 seconds over Nadine Pastor from Germany who swam her fourth race in four days (including a 10K on Thursday and 5K on Friday).
Hungarian Evelyn Verralzto was third, South African Melissa Corfe fourth, Britain's Cassandra Patten fifth, Britain’s Alice McCall sixth, South African Bianca Meyer seventh and Britian's Charlotte Wooliscroft. Nadine Pastor, a first-time Midmar Mile competitor, said after the race, "Honestly, I've never seen anything like it: the number of swimmers, the crowds, the organisation, and the beautiful setting."
The men's race was called only after race officials confirmed with race footage because the top finishers were so close. South African Riaan Schoeman forged ahead over the first 400 meters to forfeit the lead to Chad Ho and Hungarian David Verraszto for the next 800 meters. Defending champion Shaun Dias swam over the wrong course and was not a factor this year.
Germany’s Christian Reichert and Belgium’s Brian Ryckeman tried to surge at the end, but Schoeman and Verraszto sprinted ahead of the stellar field and both stood up to run over the finish line together. Schoeman and Verraszto could not have been closer together if they tried.
After checking and re-checking the videos and film for 45 minutes, the race officials awarded Schoeman the victory over Verraszto in 17:34 with Ho in third a second later, Reichert 2 seconds later and Ryckeman 5 seconds later. Defending champion Shaun Dias finished in seventh spot.
Schoeman summed up the race, "A few of us broke away and it turned out to be a sprint finish, it was really good."
Sam Greetham, a 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year nominee, once described the Midmar Mile in majestic terms, "Nothing I have seen comes anywhere near the Midmar Mile. Both in terms of the number of participants, tip-top organization, security and safety aspects, and the interaction between the participants and the public."
Copyright © 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association