Massive men's battle looms at Midmar
A battle of strength is expected in the men's race at this year's Midmar Mile near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, on February 9 and 10.
"In the men's race you've got Troyden [Prinsloo] and Chad [Ho], who you are normally expecting to race one another,” race organiser Wayne Riddin said.
"They were first and second in 2012. Then you've got Sebastien Rouault, who is coming out from France.
"He used to train with Troyden when they were at Georgia University. Then you've got Myles Brown, who is probably considered to be the top South African challenger, and possibly also Mark Randall."
Rouault is a former European men's champion over 800m and 1 500m, while Brown swam a fast 7:59.12 to win the 800m title at the Aquatic Super Series in Perth earlier this month, holding off Australian Olympic 400m finalist Ryan Napoleon for the victory.
Randall, meanwhile, has recorded a good number of open water victories around the country in the build-up to the Midmar Mile.
The women's race is headlined by seven-time Midmar Mile champion Keri-Anne Payne, who is also a two-time world champion over 10km.
American Ashley Twichell should battle Payne the whole way for the title, as she did in 2012, while Hungary's Katinka Hosszu set the Fina World Cup Series on fire in the distance events and should certainly challenge for the honours.
South Africa's talent in the women's field comes from a younger generation of swimmers.
"I think the international swimmers, like Keri-Anne Payne, will be a little bit above the competition level of our swimmers, although the World Youth champion is Michelle Weber, so she could be one of the top South Africans," Riddin said.
"Then we can't write off people like Rene Warnes, who is quite a tough competitor."
Meanwhile, a record entry loomed for the 40th edition of the Midmar as the last three seeding events – one of them in Bloemfontein and two in Johannesburg – produced record-setting entries.
"We've got a record entry now. We're not worried about entries anymore, we're worried we have too many entries," Riddin said.
There will be also be another Guinness World Record attempt at this year's Midmar Mile.
"We've already unofficially broken our own Guinness World Record for the world's largest open water swimming event," he said.
"But with this being the 40th anniversary of the race, we're expecting a larger entry than normal to come through because there will be a special medal and cap.
"Some people come out and swim for those things, so I think it would be nice if we could go over the 14 000 finishers' mark, but even better if we hit the 15 000 for the first time."
The current record, as recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records, stands at 13 755 finishers.
Midmar Mile's founder Mike “Buthy” Arbuthnot will become the first person swim the race for the 40th consecutive time.
"Buthy's participation is always going to be the special moment," Riddin said.