Midmar Mile record holder to swim for charity
22 January 2014
Seven-time champion Keri-anne Payne will return to the Midmar Mile for the 12th time on the weekend of 8 and 9 February. She won't be challenging for the women's title again, however. This time her visit is all about charity.
The South African-born British star, a two-time 10 kilometre open water swimming
world champion, will be part of the Eight Mile Club, which raises funds for various
She will be swimming for two charities, supporting the Pink Drive's fight against
breast cancer in South Africa and the UK educational charity, Skill Force, which
partners with schools, and draws on the skills and experiences of predominantly ex-
Forces personnel, to inspire young people to succeed.
'Midmar is part of my history'
"Midmar is part of my history and a race I love doing," she said of her loyal support of
the world's largest open water swimming event.
"Midmar was the competition we used to
do as a family when we lived in South
Africa, so I have many, many fond memories of the swim and will keep coming back
as long as they will keep having me."
While still living in South Africa, Payne won her first Midmar Mile title in the girls'
under-13 category in 2001. It was a win that she still regards as a highlight of her
swimming career, but, she said, the Midmar Mile has been the source of many other
"Every year at Midmar has had highlights for me, whether it was the year that I first
came back from moving to the UK, or the year that British Swimming brought out a
team to do the race, or the year I got the record for the Mile.
"My best Midmar, though, has to be the year I equalled the record for number of
wins with Natasha Figge [now Panzera, with six victories]. I will always remember my
brother Mark and father Jim talking about her when I was about 12 saying 'She is
amazing. I can't
see anyone beating her record!' That was the year I decided that I
would try my best to do that!"
Payne's hold on the title, which she had held since 2008, was broken last year when
Ashley Twichell became the first American to claim the honours. Payne had taken a
break after the London Olympics where she narrowly missed out on a medal after
finishing in a heart-breaking fourth place and was not in prime form, but she was still
good enough for second place.
'A really interesting year'
"It was a really interesting year for me," she recalled, looking back on 2013. "Midmar
2013 was the starting point last year to step back into the open water racing world
and I had decided that I wanted to make it back to World Championship form and
compete in Barcelona ." Payne placed 14th, just six-and-a-half seconds behind gold
medallist Poliana Okimoto.
After competing in Barcelona, it was time to rethink her approach. "After the World
took some time out and decided that I needed a break from the sport and
had time to really think about what it is that I want to do. After a lot of thought and
discussions with my coach, we decided to put a plan in place to get me in the best
form possible for Rio 2016, which has meant that this season - September 2013 to
September 2014 - I have taken a year out of elite competitive racing marathon
"So far, this year has involved swimming once a day, more gym work, and working on
my step into the 'media' world."
An exciting time
For Payne, who has dedicated so much of her time to competition, the new year is
an exciting time filled with very different goals than those she has held onto in
recent times. "2014 is a year for me recuperate the mind and body and do things I
have not been able to do for many years," she explained. "An example was being able
head out to San Fransisco and Brazil for 'fun' competitions, and I am
finally able this
year to compete in my first Eight Mile Midmar, which I am very excited about!"