No bridge too far
By Paul Brooks
This Saturday, after a 2020 Covid-induced hiatus, the Whanganui Multisport Club Bridge to Bridge Swim returns.
For Michelle Nevil, a champion pool swimmer, last year was to be her first Bridge to Bridge swim. Unfortunately, it was cancelled at the last minute.
"She hasn't been doing open water for long," says club committee member and veteran swimmer Margie Chiet.
"I've been pool swimming since I was 10," says Michelle. "When we moved to New Zealand I started swimming with what was left of the masters group on a Sunday morning. I kept hearing them talking about this open water swimming, and it intrigued me. It's something I never thought I'd ever do."
It got to the point where she thought she would give it a go.
After surgery at the end of 2019, Michelle made the Bridge to Bridge swim a goal. She trained with the Multisport Club and entered in the 2020 Epic Swim on Lake Taupo, competing in the 2.5km. This year she competed again, in both the 2.5km and the 5km, finishing in both.
Michelle recently swam the Round the Lighthouse 3.3km swim from Oriental Bay.
"Then I did the Masters Games. I much prefer being in the open water," she says. "I think it's just being at one with nature: you're swimming with the river so you've got to think about the tide, the wind, the weather, who else you're swimming with, looking back for them, making sure they're safe. There's more camaraderie, and, to me, that was quite important in my swimming. A big part of the open water is that you can see we are a group."
Margie says the group has grown by a few members since last year, although veterans like herself, Paddy Gallagher and 81-year-old Tony Fantham remain.
She has arranged sponsorship of spot prizes for this year's event. Businesses like Mud Ducks, Rutland Arms, Whanganui River Traders Market, 25 Somme Parade and others have all contributed.
"The Bridge to Bridge started in 1910," says Margie. "There was a cup called the Shining Cup."
Margie says she has never seen one called that, although the event has seven trophies. Thirty-six people competed in the inaugural race but many did not finish.
"Everybody walked along the bank and followed them. It stopped in 1967 and was reinstated 29 years later in 1996."
What: Bridge to Bridge 3km Swim
When: Saturday, February 27, 1pm start. Registration from 11.30am or on-line.
Where: Union Boat Shed