By Steven Munatones of Open Water Source
PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa. February 10. AT the start of the aQuelle Midmar Mile, the world's largest open water swimming competition, Troy Prinsloo scouted Chad Ho and checked out his position. Ho had positioned himself on the far left of the huge pack, in his customary position. But the pressure was on for the 3-time defending champion from Durban. "I decided my line at the very last moment," said Ho.
Ho can read the weather and conditions as well as anyone. Ho quickly made his way to the front of the pack. And for good reason, there was R14,800 (US$1,618) available for the winner (hot spot prizes included).
Prinsloo, himself a two-time winner, knew Ho knew the course well. Right from the start, Prinsloo placed himself on the feet of Ho: as is hand (Prinsloo) to foot (Ho). Drafting closely right on the feet of Ho, Prinsloo has been picking up the tactics of the sport quickly since he represented South Africa at the 2012 London Olympics.
But today was the Durban native's day: Ho was hauling. He crossed the first 400m hot spot in 4 minutes 24 seconds with Prinsloo and another South African Olympian Darian Townsend following. 3 men, 3 Olympians, all vying for the most prestigious prize on the South African open water swimming calendar.
Ho also took the 800m hot spot in 9:35. Prinsloo made a move as his swim cap started to come off and thunder claps started to be heard. As the blue skies turned to gray, the battle was two-fold. Ho vs. Prinsloo and the entire field vs. Mother Nature. "We need to get everyone off the course before this storm hits the course," said race director Wayne Riddin.
Lightening increasingly flashed off in the distance as the thunder began to be heard constantly. Before the rains started to fall, Prinsloo was as close to Ho as possible. Prinsloo made his presence known as he occasionally taped the feet of the 3-time defending champion. But the race was won at the 1200m hot spot when Ho opened up an ever so slight gap on Prinsloo.
That half-meter lead signaled the finish as Prinsloo and Danie Marais only had 400m to make up the gap. Ho was in the driver's seat with the lead position. He determined the tangent to the finish and the others simply followed. As Prinsloo was the chaser, it was Ho's race to lose. With 200m to go, Ho had finally opened up a 5-second gap. "It was a tough race. I tried to keep up with him," said Prinsloo.
"I was happy with the race," said the smiling Ho after the race. "I will adjust my training now for the upcoming world championships in Barcelona."
The results of the top 5 finishers:
1. Chad Ho 17:57
2. Troy Prinsloo 18:09
3. Danie Marais 18:10
4. Mark Randall 18:33
5. Matthew Meyer 18:55
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