Gqeberha, SOUTH AFRICA: The continents oldest swimming event has found a way to keep going.
Thanks to the support of well-known drinks company, aQuelle, the NMB River Mile will go ahead this year when it makes its way back to the now familiar venue at the Cannonville slipway in Colchester.
The event was postponed when the country moved to alert level 3 at the start of 2021. With restrictions remaining in place until the end of March there were serious doubts about the feasibility of the event in the uncertain times. However, it has now been confirmed that the event will go ahead with reduced numbers and no spectators in line with COVID-19 regulations.
Confirmation of the event going ahead means that the long-standing history of the River Mile remains unbroken for another year. “Our main aim for this year’s River Mile was to just keep it going”, says event organiser Michael Zoetmulder. “With events being postponed and cancelled all around the world we are extremely grateful to aQuelle for their support and making it possible to host this event”. The River Mile is known as the oldest swim in Africa and is nearing 100 years of competition with the 2021 edition being the 97th since the events inception in 1924 (only missing 4 years during the 1940’s). “The River Mile has such a rich history it was very important that we keep that history going”. The River Mile’s rich history can be traced back many generations including the victories of the late Geoff Grylls. The British and South African champion was a 6-time champion of the event and sadly passed away this week. Grylls was the winner of numerous swimming awards in South Africa and was named South Africans Swimmer of the year in 1962, 1963 and 1964.
Even though the 97th edition will be going ahead this year it will be under severe restrictions. An event which ordinarily hosts up to 2000 people will now see only 200 swimmers per event making their way upriver for the famous men’s and ladies mile. There will also be no spectators allowed at the event with athletes adhering to strict social distancing and regular sanitizing. Organisers have warned that any breach of these rules could result in disqualification.
With 2020 Ladies champion Hannah Counihan, who won in dramatic fashion last year, set to miss this year’s race due to commitments elsewhere it will be left up to the rest of the field to scrap it out. Lize Muller, who was last years runner up will be one to watch. Muller together with Marina Double Mile winner Kerri-Lee Barnard will be two potential favourites for the win. Barnard has been in good form of late and will definitely be contending come Sunday’s delayed 2021 edition.
Sundays Ladies River Mile will start at 13h00 and will be followed by the men’s race at 14h00 once all the ladies have cleared the water and been awarded their medals. All entry and event information can be found on www.zsports.co.za/river-mile.