South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom are targeting further success at the Doha-leg of FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup, which starts at the Hamad Aquatic Centre today.
“Doha is a second home for me. I have been coming here since 2012 and have always had success here. I hope that continues this time too. I will try to improve on my recent performances in Hong Kong,” Le Clos told the media yesterday.
The London Olympics 200m butterfly gold medallist is the overall men’s series leader with a total score of 234 points after the end of the first four events in Moscow, Berlin, Eindhoven and Hong Kong.
He boasts of a 132-point lead over Tom Shields of the US. Russian star Vladimir Morozov is in third place with 138 points and his compatriot Kirill Prigoda is fourth.
The two-day event will be fifth of the eight-leg World Cup, with Beijing (November 10-11) and Tokyo (November 14-15) the other remaining stopovers.
Le Clos is entered in six races this weekend. In Hong Kong he had won gold in 50m fly, while picking up silver medals in 100m fly and 200m freestyle.
“It’s been a hard few months of training for me leading up to this and I will be pushing myself here also,” the 25-year-old champion said.
Le Clos also expected a very good show by Sjostrom in Doha. “Sarah had a very good outing in Hong Kong and I am sure that she will establish a couple of world records here.”
After a four-week break, the Swedish ace pocketed five gold medals throughout the two-day competition in Hong Kong. She was topped 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, and 50m and 100m fly.
“I am very happy to be back in Doha. I was here in 2014 for the World Championships, which were very successful for me. It’s my first World Cup here, and hope it’s going to be fun,” said Sjostrom.
“I have had a very good season – I am taking part in all the World Cup legs and it’s going pretty well,” the 24-year-old said.
The 2016 Rio Games 200m butterfly gold medallist leads the women’s points table with 353 points, while Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (272 points) and the Netherland’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo (155 points) round up the top three ahead of the Doha leg.
Talking about her good show in Hong Kong last week, Sjostrom said, “I was coming after a good break after Eindhoven, which finished on August 12. I was fully recovered and it was evident in my performance.”
Prigoda too was optimistic of his performance in Doha.
“Like Sarah, I was also here for the last time for the World Championships, and I won bronze. So I have found memories of this pool and I expect a good performance at the very nice venue,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Qatar Swimming Association president Khaleel al-Jabir emphasised that the event was generating a great enthusiasm in the city and mentioned, with proud, that some young Qatari swimmers were participating in the event.
“This is very important for us, as it will be essential for building-up and developing swimming in Qatar. This competition and the presence of so many stars is certainly a motivation for our youth,” he said.
The press conference was also attended by FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu and technical delegate Daphne Bird.
“Outside the frame of the FINA World Championships, the World Cup is the best and most privileged opportunity to further promote our sport. The event in Doha will be spectacular, as this city is actively preparing for the 2023 FINA World Championships here in Qatar,” Marculescu said.
“However, nothing is more important in swimming than our stars – and some of them are here with us for the event.”
With the new 2017 rules for the World Cup, swimmers are competing twice in each event over the three-leg cluster, but with the reduction to two events in cluster 2, the full programme of 34 individual events for each leg was reinstated only for Hong Kong and Doha.
Moreover, the general rule of a maximum of four individual events per swimmer per leg was slightly modified for this second cluster, and now comprises six events per competitor.
FINA announced earlier this week it has raised the prize money awarded to winners of the overall World Cup titles. A total of $600,000 will now be split across the top three in the men’s and women’s competitions.
The two athletes that finish in first place at the end of the World Cup campaign will receive $150,000 each. Second place will get $100,000 and third place will receive $50,000.
(From left) FINA technical delegate Daphne Bird, Qatar Swimming Association president Khaleel al-Jabir, Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjostrom, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu and Russian swimmer Kirill Prigoda pose at the press conference ahead of the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup in Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil