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Midmar mission for swimmer Chad

by ZwemZa on January 7th, 2019

Chad Gifford (47) is a swimming coach and daredevil open water swimmer who perhaps could have been a comedian in another life.

He’s experienced tragedy the average person cannot comprehend, losing both his legs in a motor vehicle accident as a young man.

Yet he lives his life in such an adventurous fashion that it would embarrass most couch potatoes.

His latest mission is to be part of the Midmar 16 Mile at this year’s event on February 9 and 10, having already secured his Midmar 8 Mile Club permanent number.

Following the success of the Midmar 8 Mile Club that was started in 2004 by Stan Kozlowski and Mervyn Bremner, 2016 saw the first group of 16 Milers taking part.

Not only do they swim each of the 8 Mile events, but they also swim back to the start line in time for the following race.

One of the criteria is that Chad will need to raise R20 000 for the Duzi Umngeni Conservancy Trust.

“The organisers have always been good to me, they look after me. Swells can be a little nervy but it’s a good challenge,” he said.

Chad moved from Alberton in Johannesburg to live in the family’s ‘other home’ in Umzumbe midway through 2017.

Chad Gifford of Umzumbe trains and coaches at the Marburg municipal pool.

He is popular in the swimming fraternity, having gotten to know two other famous Chads in the sport – Le Clos and Ho.

Speaking about the accident and its aftermath, he sums it up quickly: “Do you really want me to make you depressed in less than two sentences?”

Then he adds: “I was never really a fan of running, but I do miss being able to ride a motorbike. Can’t do it now, I’m lopsided and I’ll go flying off.”

That’s the sense of humour he has, which leaves those he meets for the first time not quite sure what to say or where to look.

In many ways, he’s as normal a South African guy as you can hope to find: he watches sport, notices attractive women, enjoys banter with mates and is something of a practical joker.

For example, when he was part of the South African Paralympic team, he once sat next to a teammate on the plane, a fellow about 6 ft 5 tall.

Noticing the man’s discomfort, Chad said, “Want to sit in my spot? Seems to be more leg room here!”

Focus is key to success in swimming, he says. And tricking your brain to tell your body what to do.

‘If you feel like quitting during a race, think of me’ is something he tells his students.

His point is that if he can get to the end, so can they.

Chad has a ‘Porsche’ and a ‘4×4 bakkie’, but the car he drives is a Mazda specially adapted for his needs.

His ‘Porsche’ is the streamlined, agile skateboard-like gurney that he uses when going out.

At home, he uses his ‘4×4’, which is bigger, wider and more comfortable.

“The wheelchair was too cumbersome and bulky, and it slowed me down. The idea to switch to something like this made a huge difference.”

So, there’s every chance you could see him one day at a shopping centre cruising on his ‘Porsche’.

You’ve been warned.

“People sense there’s someone behind them and they look around and see nothing … then look down and I’m there, grinning,” he said.

He’s also not shy to ask for help when needing an item off a top shelf.

“Some people aren’t sure how to react and just stare, either at me or at the item on the shelf.”

Despite the jokes and adventurous spirit, there’s a serious side, too.

“If there’s one thing I have seen in life it’s that people are lonely,” he said.

That’s part of the reason he likes to coach and get involved in fundraising events.

What’s next?

“I’d like to do the Robben Island swim, but my mother is not too happy about that idea. She’s concerned about the sharks but the irony is that the cold is probably more of an issue.”

After that, maybe the English Channel … in the meantime though, his focus is on Midmar.


Chad Gifford 16 Mile fundraising link

Go to and click on the DONATE link.

Sponsors/donors needing an S18A donations tax certificate must pay directly to DUCT and send proof of payment to

South Coast Herald


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