Rio Olympian Matthew Meyer was crowned king of the 2017 aQuelle Midmar Mile in the Natal Midlands at the weekend… and he had to beat seven-time champion Chad Ho and reigning Olympic open water champion Ferry Weertman to earn that honour, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Modest could be the 18-year-old Durbanite’s middle name after he had clocked 18min 13sec for the event, the world’s biggest open water swimming event. Runner-up was Ho, five seconds back with American Chip Peterson completing the podium in 18:20.
Olympic champion Weertman was fourth in 18:26.
‘I was fortunate enough to win this Midmar and managed to edge out the competition,’ said Meyer in understated fashion. ‘It was a super tough race and conditions were slightly messy.
‘Until 1400 metres I was sitting at around second or third place but managed to take the lead from there to the finish. It was a sprint till the end where I was first and Chad five seconds behind. I’m stoked with the results as it was always my goal to win the event and also a huge congratulations to my coach Alisdair Hatfield who had two swimmers in the top three and five in the top 10.
Meyer, who is studying for an accounting degree at Varsity College in Durban, is no stranger to the Midmar Mile, an institution of the South African distance swimming scene.
‘I’ve actually lost count now…but I believe it’s either 11 or 12 I believe. As a junior I won two titles. The first when I was 12 and the second a year after.’
And the victory means a lot to Meyer. ‘This is a huge confidence booster and this, along with my good performances at the Grand Prix in Durban, puts me in great stead for the year.
‘From here I’ll be competing at the Grand Prix in Stellenbosch and from there I look to qualify for World Champs in Budapest for the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle at senior nationals being held in April.’
Going back to his Grand Prix performances and Meyer is obviously a man in form as he won both the 400 and 800m events at the Kings Park pool.
‘I won the 400m in a time of 3:51:51 and in the 1500 I swam a time of 15:15:57. My 400 was a personal best and my 1500 was six seconds off. So yes, I’m very happy with my performance so early in the season.’
As for Ho, who was 10th in the men’s open water event in Rio, he was humble in defeat.
‘Overall It was a good race and I went as hard as I could. Unfortunately it just wasn’t my day to win. But I don’t have any regrets, I know I laid it all out on the dam as did the other guys.
‘It was enjoyable to have that competition, it’s always nice as a professional athlete to be challenged and what makes me very happy that we kept the title in South Africa regardless of who we were racing against.’
There’s little chance for 26-year-old Ho to dwell on Midnar as he heads down the coast to Grabouw for the annual Sanlam Cape Mile. ‘Then I have open water nationals in Jeffreys Bay in the first weekend of March. Apart from that it’s working towards World Champs which is in Hungary in July.’
Picture of Meyer emerging from the water courtesy of BOOGS Photography/Andrew McFadden
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