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Chalmers could be Australia’s lone crusader in FINA’s new series

by ZwemZa on January 22nd, 2019

Awkward” timing and the tyranny of distance are likely to prevent a host of top-line Australians from bobbing up at FINA’s new Champions Swim Series in coming months.

Swimming’s world governing body formally lodged its counter to the rebel International Swimming League last weekend, announcing a three-leg invite-only series to be held in China, Hungary and the USA this year.

China bound? Kyle Chalmers is one Australian who is considering swimming in the Champions Swim Series.

China bound? Kyle Chalmers is one Australian who is considering swimming in the Champions Swim Series.Credit:AAP

But the timing of the meets, across April (Guangzhou), May (Budapest) and June (Indianapolis), means it will butt up hard against Australia’s national championships in April and national selection trials in June, the crucial meet for local athletes.

While FINA sent the invitations, to 45 men and 37 women globally, via their national federations, Swimming Australia is understood to be leaving the decision up to individual athletes and their coaches.

Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves told the Herald she would be giving the Champions Series a miss and freestyle star Cate Campbell indicated last week the events were unlikely to suit Australian swimmers’ schedules, particularly given their locations.

“It’s a little bit awkward, the timing,” Campbell said. “We have selection trials in June and these comps are being held in April and May. Getting to Europe is a long way to go so I’m unsure it will work, it seems like it’s putting a lot of comps in a now a very busy time of year for swimming globally.

“In Australia the depth of talent means we have to re-qualify for the national team every year and we have one chance to do that, in the selection trials.

“First and foremost that is what I strive for every year, because representing my country is always the driving force behind what I’m doing.”

But Australia’s Olympic 100m freestyle champion Kyle Chalmers could yet swim the Chinese leg of the FINA series, with his schedule to be confirmed after the South Australian championships that end on Thursday.

The Champions series was announced shortly after the privately funded ISL gained momentum late last year. It is promising prize money of up to US$10,000 in individual events, up to US$16,000 in relay events and a US$20,000 bonus for world records.

The timing of the first leg in China and the shorter flight makes it a potential event for Australians but the meets in Budapest in Hungary and the USA would disrupt training for the world championship trials in Brisbane in June.

But from an Australian perspective, at least, the promise of better prize money has not yet taken the shine off the ISL’s popularity among athletes. Backed by Russian-Ukrainian energy oligarch Konstantin Grigorishin, it has a reported prize pool worth $US5.3 million.

Campbell has signed on to swim in the team-based league, to be held from September to December, when it launches in the second half of this year. Groves said she hoped to be there too.

“I intend to be a part of it, yes,” Groves said. “My main goal is to hopefully get a good base down over the next 18 months of training and competitions. There’s world championships this year in South Korea but my next big goal is Aussie trials, then hopefully worlds and then, hopefully the ISL.”

Groves was one of the Australian athletes flown over to London late last year for an unprecedented gathering of the world’s top swimmers, outside of competition.

Convened by ISL organisers when a veiled threat from FINA caused them to cancel their first scheduled meet in Turin, Italy, Groves joined the likes of Adam Peaty, Chad Le Clos and Sarah Sjostrom to kick off the formation of an international professional swimmers’ association.

with Phil Lutton

Georgina Robinson / The Sydney Morning Herald

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