The first leg of the FINA/MASTBANK Swimming World Cup 2014 concluded in Doha (QAT) on August 28 with more of Katinka Hosszu’s outstanding performances. In the second and final day of the meet, the Hungarian great added five more medals to her tally, for a total of 10 podium presences in the capital of Qatar. The latest successes of Hosszu included the gold in the 100m and 400m individual medley, 100m backstroke, silver in the 200m butterfly and bronze in the 50m butterfly.
After a WR on Day 1 in the 200m IM, the Magyar star imposed once more her supremacy in the medley events, winning the 400m in a new World Record time of 4:20.83 and the 100m in 57.34, a bit slower than the world best mark set in the heats, with a 57.25 effort. Both performances improved Hosszu World Records in these events, established in the 2013 edition of the series.
Despite looking tired after the 400m IM brilliant result, she managed to win the 100m backstroke in 56.02, but the two next races of the Hungarian athlete were more painful. Both times in direct duel with Mireia Belmonte, from Spain, Hosszu got the silver in the 200m butterfly behind the Spaniard, while things got worse in the 400m free: Belmonte earned another gold, while, on a training pace – certainly preparing the 100m IM race -, the Magyar finished sixth.
After a good start in the shortest of the medley events, Katinka Hosszu touched home a bit slower than in the preliminaries, when she clocked 57.25 for a new World Record. Her afternoon result of 57.34 is nonetheless faster than her previous WR coming to Doha (57.45, established in 2013). To complete her successful harvest in Doha, Hosszu was still strong enough to collect a bronze medal in the 50m butterfly!
Going to Dubai (UAE), the second stop of the series, Hosszu accumulates already three World Records and 10 podium presences, including seven gold medals. The winner of the 2012 and 2013 editions of the World Cup is naturally aiming at the hat-trick and is the comfortable leader of the overall ranking, with 189 points.
“The World Cup is a great opportunity for swimmers to make money and compete at the same time. Athletes get forgotten between the Olympics and the World Cup is a great opportunity to keep competing”, said Hosszu after her two-day performances in Doha.
“A lot of people ask me if I’m afraid of burning out but I’m OK. As long as I like what I do, I’ll keep doing it. That’s all that matters”, she also considered. “This is my third year here and I’ve seen more Hungarian supporters in the stands. They come out to cheer and that’s great”, she concluded.
Besides Hosszu, the women’s field was highlighted by two more victories of Inge Dekker (NED), in the 100m free and 50m butterfly, totalling four triumphs for the Dutch swimmer in Doha. Belmonte was also in good shape, getting three gold medals, the above mentioned two against Hosszu and the victory on Day 1 in the 800m free. Finally, Alia Atkinson got a second win on Day 2, this time in the 50m breaststroke, after also earning gold in the 100m in the initial day of the event.
Among men, things are pretty more balanced, with the provisional lead of the ranking being occupied by Chad Le Clos (RSA), the 2013 champion. He concluded his presence in Doha with a thrilling victory in the 100m butterfly, after defeating Tom Shields (USA) by a short margin: 48.70 for Le Clos, 49.23 for the North American swimmer. The South African star had won two events on Day 1 and was the second best performer of the meet, after the World Cup performance of Daniel Gyurta (HUN) in the 200m breaststroke on August 27 (the Magyar was also the winner in the 100m).
“I wanted to try for the World Record, but it was really hard. I’ll try it in Dubai!” confessed Chad Le Clos after the 100m butterfly race. “With big races like this, it’s about getting results and points. This is a great venue and I look forward to competing here in December”, he noted.
The highest number of victories (four) in Doha went to Thomas Fraser-Holmes, from Australia. On the second day of the meet, he was the fastest in the 200m free and 200m IM, after being already the best in the 400m free and 400m IM on Day 1. The last swimmer with more than one gold in Doha was Germany’s Christian Diener, with victories in the 100m and 200m backstroke.
Before the second leg of the FINA/MASTBANK Swimming World Cup 2014 in Dubai (UAE) on August 31 – September 1, the provisional top-3 best of the overall ranking of the competition are:
1. Chad Le Clos (RSA), 54 points
2. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS), 48 points
3. Daniel Gyurta (HUN), 48 points
1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 189 points
2. Inge Dekker (NED), 60 points
3. Mireia Belmonte (ESP), 45 points
Seventy-year-old Australian Cyril Baldock last week became the oldest person to swim across the English Channel.
Now 73-year-old Brisbane grandmother Irene Keel wants that title – and two other world titles along with it.
“The “least youngest” person to swim across the channel. The “least youngest” woman to swim across the channel. And the “least youngest” Australian to swim across the channel. So that gives me three titles from one swim and I think that’s pretty good,” Irene told SBS during a training swim at Dover on Britain’s south coast.
“Irene only learnt to swim in her fifties after suffering a back injury. Now she’s hoping to swim her way into the history books.
Dodging ferries and jellyfish in the world’s busiest seaway, Irene Keel says it’s a lot different to swimming in Queensland – but she is raring to go.
Her journey from England to France could take more than 15 hours.
If successful, she’ll become the oldest person to ever complete the 36-kilometre crossing.
“It’s always been called the Everest of swimming. They say about 85 per cent mental,15 per cent physical. And I’d go along with that. You really have to have a clear mind,” says Irene.
The previous holder claimed the title just last week – her swimming club partner, 70-year-old Bondi surf lifesaver Cyril Baldock.
Irene Keel’s expedition has a dual purpose – to raise money in memory of her friend, motor neurone campaigner Scott Sullivan.
“For me the motivation will be Scott’s photo up on the side of my boat – it’ll be a big banner – with a lovely picture of Scott smiling and apart from that all I think about it my stroke and my rhythm,” she says.
After months of careful planning and gruelling training there is of course one thing Irene can’t control, the weather.
Dover isn’t exactly beautiful one day, perfect the next, so, for now at least, it’s an anxious waiting game.
Irene Keel’s spending the hours circling the harbour in preparation for a swim that she hopes will motivate others.
“If it just inspires one person to go out and do more exercise whether it’s swimming or anything else than I will have achieved something. I’ll be very happy about that.”
Swimming New Zealand’s staying composed over a generally below-par performance at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships.
A stack of medals to Lauren Boyle has been the only real highlight over the past month, with question marks over the sport’s funding.
Swimming NZ CEO Christian Renford says they’re not going to start sounding alarm bells.
He says they need to take in multiple considerations like a few injuries and illnesses they had while the programme was on.
Christian Renford says as with every other year, they’ll be undertaking a full review as to where exactly they can improve on.
Australian John van Wisse has encountered an unexpected obstacle in his ambitious ultra-triathlon bid from London to Paris – the British border patrol.
The Melbourne athlete, who is on track to break the record for one of the world’s toughest sporting challenges, was briefly mistaken for an illegal immigrant as he prepared to begin the swim leg across the English Channel on Wednesday.
Police and coast guards were called to Dover’s Shakespeare Beach by concerned locals around 8.30am but quickly saw the funny side when they realised what they were dealing with.
A Kent Police spokeswoman told the Dover Express it appears some people called police, thinking it was illegal immigrants coming ashore after several people were seen jumping off a boat.
One eyewitness told Dover Express: “He’d jumped in and out of the water from a boat posing for pictures.
“We were only there around 15 minutes before the police turned up. They were walking up and down the beach thinking it was an illegal immigrant.
“It was hilarious and the police saw the funny side.”
Kent Police said: “It looks like a couple of people called thinking it was illegal immigrants coming ashore because some people were seen jumping off a boat.
“The Border Force were down there and the Coastguard but it was a Channel swimmer.”
Van Wisse, 41, on Tuesday set off on the “Arch to Arc” challenge, from London’s Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
He had already run 138 kilometres from London to Dover when confronted by police before embarking on a 34km swim to France across the English Channel. The final leg is a 290km bike ride from the Channel coast to Paris.
Van Wisse is attempting to break the record of Mark Bayliss of Great Britain who completed the London to Paris challenge in 73 hours and 39 minutes in 2012 including waiting 14 hours on the English coast for the optimum tide for the Channel swim.
According to News Corp reports Van Wisse overnight was just half an hour from the French coast.
Van Wisse, 41, told News Corp before the race that weather conditions gave him little room for error in crossing the English Channel.
“It is a big leap of faith in my swim coach Mike Oran who has a lot of experience with the Channel swims,” he said. “Once I start the run, even if the weather is bad, I can’t turn back because the clock has already started,” he said.
AAP with Fairfax Media
Three days after the conclusion of the 32nd European Swimming Championships in Berlin, the records continued to fall in the first session of the inaugural leg of the FINA Mastbank Swimming World Cup 2014, at the Hamad Aquatic Centre yesterday.
In the main annual FINA rendezvous in 25m pool, reigning World Champion, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu lived up to her reputation of participating in as many events as possible as, taking part in five out of eight events scheduled on the first day. In the process, she broke World and World Cup records by winning four golds and a bronze medal.
Hosszu first posted a time of 1:51.84 in the 200m Freestyle heats in the morning session to break the previous World Cup record of 1:52.08 set by USA’s Allison Schmitt in 2011 and later in the evening she improved the record by clocking 1:51.41.
The Hungarian Iron Lady also broke her own 200m Individual Medley world record by clocking 2:02.61. She led from start to finish and by halfway had established close to a three-second lead. Her earlier record was 2:03.20, which was set on August 7, 2013, in Eindhoven.
“That was awesome. I’m super excited after setting the World Record. It’s my fastest ever time in a textile suit. I can’t believe it,” said Hosszu.
Hosszu also won the gold in 50m backstroke ahead of silver medalist of Poland Aleksandra Urbanczyk and bronze medalist Daryan Zevina.
In 200m Backstroke, Hosszu finished ahead of Ukrainian Daryna Zevina and Carolina Colorado Henao of Colombia to make it four golds for the day.
She won an 800m freestyle bronze finishing behind Spain’s Garcia Belmonte, who won gold and Liechtenstein’s Julia Hassler.
Belmonte won gold with a time of 8:14.99, but she was nowhere near her Berlin performance, when she set the world mark (7:59.34).
“It was very difficult today, I had only a few days since Berlin and it’s difficult to change the pool to 25m but I think it was ok,” Belmonte said.
Talking about Hosszu’s performance, she said, “The 25m pool is her speciality, it’s difficult to win against her but I think I have started to do it.”
In the exciting 1000m butterfly and 50m freestyle final, Inge Dekker of the Netherlands came first. Australia’s Marieke D’Cruz finished second in the butterfly event, while Aleksandra Urbanczyk finished second in the freestyle.
“I’m really happy, my time was really good. I’m satisfied with the race. It’s better doing short course than long course as it doesn’t hurt so much. I like to be here, it’s a great environment as there are lots of people watching,” Dekker said.
Daryna Zevina, who entered the World Cup final for the first time and claimed the 50m backstroke bronze said: “I have been here twice before and it’s really great to race. It’s the first final for me and it was great to finish at the podium. I will also race in Dubai, Hong Kong and Moscow leg of the event so there is a lot for me to aim for.”
Day one results
800m medley: 1. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ES) 8:14.99; 2. Julia Hassler (LIE) 8:18.37; 3. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 8:29.48;
200m Freestyle: 1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 1:51.41; 2. Evelin Verraszto (HUN) 1:55.81; 3. Danielle Villars (SUI) 1:57.90;
100 Breaststroke: 1. Alia Atkinson (JAM) 1:03.79; 2. Breeja Larson (USA) 1:05.06; 3. Hrafnhildur Luthersdottir (ISL) 1:06.88;
100m butterfly: 1. Inge Dekker (NED) 56.05; 2. Marieke D’cruz (AUS) 57.88; 3. Danielle Villars (SUI) 58.48;
50m Backstroke: 1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 26.18; 2. Aleksandra Urbanczyk (POL) 26.44; 3. Daryna Zevina (UKR) 26.66;
200m Medley: 1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:02.61 (WR,WCR); 2. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:07.11; 3. Lisa Zaiser (AUT) 2:08.32;
50m Freestyle: 1. Inge Dekker (NED) 24.04; 2. Aleksandra Urbanczyk (POL) 24.29; 3. Marieke D’cruz (AUS) 24.52;
200m Backstroke: 1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:01.60; 2. Daryna Zevina (UKR) 2:04.56; 2. Carolina Colorado Henao (COL) 2:06.75;
4x50m Mixed Medley: 1. Finland 1:42.26 (Anni Alitalo, Jenna Laukkanen, Riku Poytakivi, AriPekka Liukkonen); 2. Switzerland 1:44.95 (Martina Van Berkel, Martin Schweizer, Alexandre Haldemann, Danielle Villars); 3. China 1:47.44 (Chaonan Zhu, Yanzhuo Chen, Xinyi Zou, Tengfei Shi)
400m Individual medley: 1. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 4:00.39; 2. David Verraszto 4:02.53; 3. Oussama Mellouli 4:07.99;
100m Freestyle: 1. Chad Le Clos (RSA) 46.29; 2. Konrad Czerniak (POL) 46.52; 3. Steffen Deibler (GER) 47.22;
50m Breaststroke: 1. Roland Schoeman (RSA) 26.35; 2. Fablo Scozzli (ITA) 26.54; 3. Martin Schweizer (SUI) 26.80;
100m Backstroke: 1. Christian Diener (GER) 50.49; 2. Eugene Godsoe (USA) 50.57; 3. Bobby Hurley (AUS) 51.42;
200m Butterfly: 1. Tom Shields (USA) 1:50:08; 2. Pawel Korzeniowski (POL) 1:51:18; 3. Nikolay Skvortsov (RUS) 1:52:23;
400m Freestyle: 1. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 3:39.30; 2. Velimir Stjepanovic (SRB) 3:40.46; 3. Ahmed Mathlouthi (TUN) 3:41.05;
200m Breaststroke: 1. Daniel Gyurta (HUN) 2:01.06; 2. Marco Koch (GER) 2:01.71; 3. Yukihiro Takahashi (JPN) 2:05.14;
100m Individual medley: 1. George Richard Bovell (TRI) 52.80; 2. Leith Shankland (RSA) 53.77; 3. Martin Spitzer (AUT) 54.77;
50m Butterfly: 1. Chad Le Clos (RSA) 22.17; 2. Tom Shields (USA) 22.63; 3. Roland Schoeman (RSA) 22.69
Encouraging performances at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships have continued the resurrection of Australian swimming, but head coach Jacco Verhaeren is reluctant to declare that the sleeping giant has awakened.
Australia finished the four-day Pan Pacs at the Gold Coast on Sunday with 10 gold from 26 medals, second only to the United States’ powerful team which reaped 40 overall, including 14 gold.
Coming weeks after a predictably dominant showing in the Commonwealth Games pool in Glasgow, Australia’s swimmers have lapped up the acclaim, with no less than the country’s Olympic chiefs declaring them as “world beaters”.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) gave the team a glowing report card halfway through the Games cycle, saying they would snatch 18 medals, including 8 golds, from the Rio pool in 2016 based on current world rankings.
The “virtual” medal tally is a far cry from the solitary title won at the London Games, which sparked scathing reviews and a clean-out of team management last year.
Dutchman Verhaeren, installed in October as part of the shake-up, is also optimistic, but backs away from claims the team has regained its “mojo”.
“Hearing the feedback from coaches and athletes and staff involved, I think everybody’s very happy where we’re heading,” the 45-year-old, who coached Olympic champions Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband, told Reuters in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“We made great steps in the team and in performance and especially transferring great results in trials in April to the major events this year, so that was a big step forward.
“At the same time, it was the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacs. We’re facing serious competition at the world championships and Olympics the following year, so I still think it suits us to stay humble.”
Australian swimming has had to eat a surfeit of humble pie in recent years, with their spectacular flop at the London pool the biggest serving.
The nation’s swimmers have long been relied upon to grab a swag of golds at the Olympics and inspire their team mates outside the pool, but failed to win a single individual title in London and slumped to their lowest medal tally in 20 years.
The disappointment led to a series of reviews, one of which reported allegations of drunkenness and bullying among team members and management failure to nip problems in the bud.
A scandal involving the men’s 4×100 metres freestyle team taking prescription sleeping tablets, which had been banned by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), heaped further embarrassment on the team, which subsequently had its government funding cut.
Repairing the culture of a team bruised by failure and riven by conflict has been a meticulous process, with leading swimmers charged with enforcing standards in tandem with coaches and sports psychologists.
Jacco Verhaeren praised world 100 metres freestyle champion Cate Campbell and Thomas Fraser-Holmes, who won the 200m freestyle gold at the Pan Pacs, for being key agents of change.
“The athlete leaders have done a great job in re-establishing the team culture,” he said. ”I always believe that when change or improvements are coming from within, it makes it a lot stronger.
“It is fair to say, all together, we succeeded in doing that. This is the first and really biggest gain this year. And from this it was possible to perform very well at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs.”
Boasting powerful 100m freestyle relay teams and the reigning individual world champions in Campbell and James Magnussen, Australia can look ahead to next year’s world championships in Kazan and the 2016 Rio Olympics with hope of regaining its former standing as a swimming superpower.
They can also look back at London as a reminder of the dangers of hubris. As raging favourite to win the 100m freestyle, Magnussen’s pre-Games warning to rivals to “brace themselves” came back to bite him when he was pipped for the gold by American Nathan Adrian.
“At the stage where swimming in Australia is now, it’s wise to not count the medals too much but to try to make the medals count,” Verhaeren added.
“I’m not working with numbers. I’m working with people. Every medal, whether gold, silver or bronze has its own story and history… Sometimes a bronze medal can feel like a gold and sometimes a silver can feel like a loss.
“The essence of sport and elite sport is to be at your best at the moment that it counts and I do believe we still have some steps to make this progress.”
Katinka Hosszu, the Hungarian swimmer nicknamed “Iron Lady’, feels an elusive Olympic medal would add sparkle to what many consider is an amazing career.
The 25-year-old swimmer has dominated the world of swimming but is yet to win an Olympic medal despite competing at three editions of the Summer Games.
Competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Hosszu finished fourth in the final of the Women’s 400 Meter individual medley, with a time of 4:33.49.
“Of course, it is disappointing. Every athlete who goes to the Games, goes there with a dream. It was really hard for me to come back from there (without a medal),” Hosszu said yesterday.
“I felt a lot of pressure before London and I really, really wanted to do it (win a medal) at the London Games. It didn’t happen. Hopefully it will happen at Rio,” she added.
Excerpts from a detailed chat with the star swimmer:
Question: Are you satisfied with your career achievements?
Answer: Yes. I actually said this before that the Olympics title is what I don’t have. But if I were to stop swimming for some strange reason right now I think I will be happy with my career so far. Definitely my goal is to get the Olympic medal. But I feel I have done a lot in swimming already. So, yes, I am pretty satisfied.
Question: Was it disappointing to miss out on a medal at the London Games?
Answer: Of course, it is disappointing. Every athlete who goes to the Games, goes there with a dream. It was really hard for me to come back from there (without a medal). The last two years I have been doing great. I never felt better before. I actually feel like I have learned a lot from London. I don’t fear failure anymore. I just try to do my best. I already had that big disappointment so I am not scared of it anymore. I felt a lot of pressure before London and I really, really wanted to do it (win a medal) at the London Games. It didn’t happen. Hopefully it will happen at Rio. Now I am okay. I think I have done a lot in the past two years.
Question: As a swimmer do you go for short-term goals or long-term goals?
Answer: Both, definitely. My long-term goal is pretty far away because we have the 2021 World Champions in Budapest. We (Hungary) will be hosting it. So I am actually thinking about it already. I kinda wanna swim there at the 2021 World Championships. Of course there is something like Games closer to that – my goal is to be on the podium there. I have short-term goals also. I want to do well at each competition I go to. I have goals for each event. I have goals for tomorrow (FINA World Cup in Doha). I will probably be swimming in a lot of races here. I am pretty excited.
Question: How do you cope with the husband-coach partnership?
Answer: It was hard at the first four years when he started out coaching me. We had to figure out how to become coach and swimmer in the pool. Now it’s been two years and we are starting to learn to deal with this different relationship. We kind of leave the swimming-coach relationship in the pool. Outside the pool we are husband and wife.
Question: How was your performance in Berlin?
Answer: I was pretty happy how I did in Berlin. You know I had a goal to do some best times. I had competed in nine individual races so I am pretty happy. I got six medals. I think we are doing so fast.
Question: Was it disappointing to come short of a world record?
Answer: You know, falling short of a world record was not disappointing because it means you are doing pretty well. And it is something I really want to do, I want to break a world record. It has been five years since I have been chasing this record. That’s my big goal. It’s still my goal. I still haven’t achieved it.
Question: Where did the “Iron Lady” title come from?
Answer: Actually it is been two years when the Chinese gave it to me. I was doing the Worlds in Beijing. I did a lot of races. I beat Olympic champions. And they were like ‘how do you do that?’ Are you made of iron?’ And they started calling me ‘Iron Lady’. I didn’t care about it then. The international swimming media loved it so it kind of stuck. I thought I will just go with it and I liked it. So we will see how it goes. Let’s see – maybe we can be a strong brand.
Question: Has the “Iron Lady’ reached her peak as a swimmer?
Answer: I want to get better. You know I feel like I have so much to improve on – mentally and physically. I want to get better every day.
The world’s most powerful swimmers have arrived in Doha ahead of the FINA Mastbank Swimming World Cup Doha — 2014.
Reigning FINA World Cup champions Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and South Africa’s Chad Le Clos lined up alongside home crowd favourite Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia at the Hamad Aquatic Centre here yesterday as the city prepared to host two days of incredible action in the water on August 27-28.
Speaking on the eve of the event, President of the Qatar Swimming Association, Khalil Al Jaber, said: “We are looking forward to an action-packed two days ahead where we will witness the strength, power and dedication of so many of the world’s best swimmers right here in Doha. As organisers we are committed to growing swimming at all levels and I hope by watching these world-class athletes compete even more (people) will be inspired to take up the sport. This is just the start of an exciting year for swimming in Qatar.”
South Africa’s Chad Le Clos, the Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games champion, has twice won the Overall Swimming World Cup in 2011 and 2013, making him a force to reckon with in the water. Speaking ahead of the FINA Mastbank Swimming World Cup Doha, Le Clos commented: “Last year in Doha I took three golds and two silver medals so I already feel confident in my performances at the pool here in Hamad Aquatic Centre. I’ve spent a few days training and relaxing in Doha but now I can’t wait to compete again. It’s the first race in the series and, personally, I will be looking to make a strong start here and get some important points early on in the series as I defend my overall World Cup title.”
“As athletes, we travel all over the world for competitions. Seeing different, new cities is one of the great things about this job and Doha has been very welcoming this week already,” he added.
Also defending an overall FINA World Cup title this year is Hungary’s ‘Iron Lady’ Katinka Hosszu. She sped through the 2013 series with six world records, winning 32 events and securing the World Cup Champion female title by an impressive 537 points.
The eyes of the swimming world will be on Doha this year as it becomes the only city in FINA’s history to host both a FINA Swimming World Cup and a FINA Swimming World Championships.
Hosszu said: “The facilities at the Hamad Aquatic Centre are excellent — it is a great chance for us to compete here in the same venue that will host the World Championships in December. We have an opportunity to test out the pool and become more familiar with the city which will help our preparations for the World Championships.”
“Everybody will be looking to push themselves over the next two days to see what kind of times we can achieve in the pool as we prepare for the World Championships here too — so you can expect some close races.”
Arguably the most successful swimmer the MENA region has ever produced, Oussama Mellouli returns to Doha this year not only as a competitor but also in the role of ambassador. He will play an important role in support Qatar’s mission to use the power of both the FINA Swimming World Cup and the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) to be held in Doha December 3-7, to help inspire the next generation of swimmers not only in Qatar but across the region.
The three-time Olympic medallist from Tunisia commented: “2014 offers a fantastic opportunity for Swimming in the Middle East. With a World Cup and a World Championships being hosted in Qatar this year it’s crucial that we use the power of those events to inspire talent and leave a legacy for the sport across the region.”
“This is a region very close to my heart and so it’s great to be back here. I hope the home crowds in Doha will get behind me this weekend and help me perform to my best.”
The FINA Swimming World Cup has been in operation since 1979 allowing the best swimmers in the world to compete between Olympic events through a series of two-day meets organized between August and November each year.
Thirty-six events make up this year’s competition programme in Doha, including two mixed relay events. Over the course of four months, the World Cup competition series will travel to seven locations across the Middle East, Europe, and Asia and will award $2m in prize money for the world’s most elite swimmers.
With Qatar fast developing as a leading swimming nation, this year promises to see both local and international athletes deliver performances in the pool that will land in the record books.
As well as the FINA Mastbank Swimming World Cup, Qatar will also host the 3rd FINA Aquatics Conference (November 29th-December 01, 2014), directly ahead of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships (December 3-7, 2014).
The long, deep breaths were a sign: Elation, satisfaction, relief. And just a touch of exhaustion.
Katie Ledecky had just wiped almost six seconds off her own world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle to win her fifth gold medal of the Pan Pacific championships, rounding off a phenomenal season of competition.
She now owns the world records in the 400- — she lowered her own mark at that distance the previous night — the 800- and the 1,500-meter freestyle events and is the world champion in all three.
And she’s still in high school.
Before the Pan Pacific championships, the bulk of the attention focused on the return to international competition of Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer of all time. Ledecky’s performances made sure Phelps had to share the spotlight.
Phelps, who won eight Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and retired after lifting his tally to 18 golds by the end of the London Games in 2012, was frequently asked about his 17-year-old teammate.
“She’s a stud. It’s unbelievable,” Phelps said of Ledecky after she lowered her record in the 400, describing her reaction to all the fuss over her times as “so nonchalant.”
“Watching her swim is remarkable,” he said.”
Ledecky enjoys swimming the 1,500, but it’s not an Olympic event for women so it’s not a big part of her longer-term plans beyond the world championships next year. She likes the challenge of it. Her reaction to winning the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle golds were fairly subdued and self-effacing.
Although she said it was “kind of cool” to be the first to set a world record at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre’s new outdoor pool, she said she also loved playing a role in a winning 4×200 freestyle relay for the Americans.
All of her records came in some pretty difficult weather conditions — steady rain and a cold wind off the nearby Pacific Ocean during most of the sessions. It was a final, and uncharacteristic, blast of the last few weeks of the southern hemisphere winter in this part of Australia.
After completing the 30 laps in 15 minutes, 28.36 seconds — her third world record in 15 days — she really let her emotions show, slapping the water in delight after an intense final lap when she pushed harder and harder to the wall.
A total of 23 athletes at the first Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 went on win Olympic medals in 2012. Perhaps the most memorable was South African swimmer Chad le Clos, who beat Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly.
Le Clos, now 22, was far more successful at the Youth Olympics, where he won five medals, including silver in the 200m fly.
“It taught me a lot of lessons that I wouldn’t have learned,” le Clos said. “A lot of people told me when I was younger that I wasn’t going to be a great butterfly swimmer. I shouldn’t even try to compete. Look at me a couple years later.”
Le Clos is in Nanjing, China, as an athlete ambassador this time around.
“To think that I’m an inspiration to young kids out there is a blessing,” he said. “I know what it feels like. I was one of those kids who looked up to many people.”
Le Clos recently relives his victory over Phelps in a video clip, but he did not go up against Phelps at the Pan Pacific Championships last week. South Africa did not send its best swimmers to the event after they took part in the Commonwealth Games. Le Clos won seven medals at Commonwealths.
“I needed some time out from competing after the Commonwealths, not have the stress of competing all the time,” Le Clos said, according to SwimSwam.
Nick Zaccardi | NBC Sports