River Mile Runs In Richards Family’s Blood

Three generations of the well-known Richards swimming clan will line up at the 92 nd Spar River Mile Festival at Cannonville outside Port Elizabeth later this month.  As has become customary, the 82-year-old Mally Richards will be surrounded by family when he takes to the water for the 63 rd time on February 21.  Joining him this year will be his son Kevin, a former six-time winner attempting his 30th mile, and the latter’s sons Sean (17) and Marc (14).

A Springbok swimmer, lifesaver and triathlete in days gone by, Kevin, now 52, swam his first mile at the age of nine and collected his debut title at 14.  Kevin, who won national titles in the pol from 1984 to 1986, says:  ‘I have had my fair share of competitive swimming.’  He also held South African records in the 100m and 200m backstroke events before switching codes and becoming national triathlon champion in 1993.

The man known as “The Fish” during his triathlon days says:  ‘But now I only swim for enjoyment and to stay in shape.  It is a lifestyle for me.’  Race director Michael Zoetmulder of Zsports says the only other six-time male winner was Geoff Grylls, who managed to do so consecutively:  ‘Both Geoff and Kevin’s achievements are remarkable, but the Richards family’s participation and passion over many decades represents the very nature of this event.’  Zoetmulder says the seventy-three-year-old Ant Skinner, another veteran of the race, will also line up on the grassy shores of the Sundays River:  ‘He grew up in Redhouse where the first one took place almost a century ago, so he literally grew up with it.’

Zoetmulder says the two-day programme not only offered swimming events for all ages and ability, but catered for runners and triathletes as well.  He says the food and craft stalls, which were carefully selected, were another family highlight.  The festival, which gets underway on February 20, supports the Smile Foundation and Cleft Friends.

Gates open at 08:00 and entry is R20 per person.  Enter at www.rivermile.co.za now.