Peacock to Shake Up Current Two-Horse Women’s Mile


A sensational battle for the women’s title is in the offing at the 2015 aQuellé Midmar Mile after 2013 World University Games 1 500 metres freestyle gold medallist Stephanie Peacock confirmed her participation. She will be out to end the domination of the event by two-time winner Ashley Twichell and seven-time champion Keri-Anne Payne.

Adding extra spice to the showdown is the fact that Peacock hails from the University of North Carolina, while Twichell’s Alma Mater is Duke University; when it comes to rivalries it doesn’t get much bigger than that between those two Colleges.

Twichell will be aiming for a third victory in succession, but a question or two surrounds her form as it will be the first time back in competition for her since she underwent shoulder surgery in the latter half of last year. Payne, the runner-up the past two years, is in much better shape this time around. Last year, like Twichell will be doing in 2015, she was returning to competition after a long break.

The 22-year-old Peacock is, meanwhile, transitioning into open water swimming, but her successes over long distance in the pool suggest that she could push for the honours in the world’s largest open water swimming event in her very first crack at the title.

Event organiser Wayne Riddin is a former two-time Midmar Mile winner and one of South Africa’s leading swimming coaches, having served as head coach at the Sydney Olympic Games and most recently as an assistant coach at the London Olympics. He is expecting a tremendous tussle.

“I think it could be something special,” Riddin said. “Ashley [Twichell] came in from the United States in her first year and got second place [behind Keri-anne Payne]. Katinka Hosszu, a world renowned swimmer, managed only fourth in her first go at the race, and now you have Stephanie Peacock, who has the credentials, in my opinion, to break a Janet Evans’ record, which has stood for 22 years.”

“Janet Evans is one of the biggest names in the history of swimming. For somebody to break one of her records means that she is pretty good, so it will be an interesting clash here because I think Keri-anne is a lot fitter than last year, and she still pushed Ashley all the way.

“I think Ashley is coming out here to prove a point and to see where she is at in terms of her form.

“A girl like Stephanie coming in, who is moving towards open water swimming, will, I think, result in an unbelievable race.”

Apart from her gold medal in the 1 500m at the 2013 World University Games, Peacock also won silver in the 800m and bronze in the 400m, suggesting that she is someone that gets stronger as the length of her races increases. That is something that should suit her Midmar Mile challenge very well.

Her training programme, according to USA Swimming, includes swimming 7 000 metres day, over the course of three to five hours, six days a week. Endurance, therefore, will be the least of her concerns when she tackles the iconic South African event.

Most likely, as it often is for first timers at the Midmar Mile, Peacock’s toughest task will be finding the right swimming line to the slipway at the end of the race. Many top swimmers, even those with experience, have seen their efforts undone by the challenges of dealing with currents, choppy water, wind, and a potentially chaotic start to the race.

Nonetheless, the rising American star has a real shot at bringing to an end the domination of Twichell and Payne, who have won the last six Midmar Mile titles between them.

The 2015 aQuellé Midmar Mile takes place at the Midmar Dam, just outside of Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, on 7 and 8 February. More information can be found at

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