Fresh from breaking three World Cup records in Kazan last week, Sarah Sjostrom is set to make a splash again at the Hamad Aquatic Centre from today. The Swede is in outstanding form coming into the Doha leg of the FINA Swimming World Cup, as she leads the women’s rankings.
In Kazan, five World Cup records were broken and Sjostrom rewrote the books in three of them. The 25-year-old, who is Sweden’s first Olympic swimming champion, shattered the meet timings in Kazan in the 50m freestyle (23.83 secs), 50m butterfly (25.39 secs) and 100m butterfly fly (57.42 secs).
She also won two other races in the first leg and has made a strong start to reclaiming her last year’s overall winner title with 60 points. Sjostrom is in no mood to let her guard down as she is eyeing an improved show in Doha.
“My last year’s competition in Doha was successful, and after that I won the overall title. I am targeting another good performance at this venue and hoping to be faster than in Kazan,” she told reporters yesterday.
Katinka Hosszu of Hungary is Sjostrom’s closest challenger, having also won five titles in Kazan. The Hungarian star ,famously known as ‘The Iron Lady’ is third in the rankings with 36 points behind Russia’s Yulia Efimova (42 points). “I have many great memories in Doha and I am excited to be back. I am hopeful of giving a good show and win more races,” she said.
Hosszu leads all money-earners with $11,500 in winnings through the Kazan World Cup. The five-time tour champion won five golds, three silvers and one bronze, plus swam on two bronze-medal mixed relays for Hungary. No other athlete is yet over $7,500 after Kazan, which is the first of seven stops on the tour. Other top women swimmers who will be in action in Doha are Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Kira Toussaint from Netherlands, Yuliya Efimova.
Vladmir Morozov of Russia is leading the men’s rankings after the first leg. Morozov will return to action after winning three races in the previous meeting, which gave him 54 points. In Kazan, Morozov was responsible for two World Cup records in the 50m freestyle (21.49) and 50m backstroke (24.43).
Morozov’s teammate, Anton Chupko, will be another Russian star to watch out for. At just 21-years-old, the Rio Olympics bronze medallist is one of the names to watch out for heading into the 2020 Olympic Games. In Kazan, he put in a spectacular display winning the 100m and 200m breaststroke. He is second in the rankings with 48 points. “It’s good to be here in Doha. After the Kazan performance, I am looking for some interesting results in this tough competition,” said Chupkov.
Races featuring last year’s overall winner in men’s challenge, Chad Le Clos, will also be must-watch contests as the South African star will be hoping to improve his ranking. He triumphed in the 200m fly in Kazan, and is on 5th position in the current rankings.
“I always rate Doha as my second home. I’ve spent a lot of time here especially in Aspetar. I’ve also achieved good results here and looking forward to be faster than in Kazan,” he said.
Doha will also see the likes of Blake Pieroni and Michael Andrew from America and Australian Mitch Larkin in action. Andrew topped the men’s 100m butterfly field in Kazan, getting gold ahead of Le Clos in duelling times of 51.96 to 52.00, while Larkin remained untouched in the 100m back, 200m back and 200m IM events.
Qatar, the host country for the FINA World Championships in 2023, is hosting the highly-anticipated event for the seventh consecutive year. Over 130 swimmers from 23 countries are ready to compete.
Qatar Swimming Association (QSA) President and FINA Bureau member Khaleel al-Jabir said: “We look forward to continue hosting this event successfully and wish swimmers the best experience as ever.”
FINA Technical Delegate Craig Hunter was impressed with the preparations by the Qatar Swimming Association. “We are delighted to return to Doha. After the success of Kazan stop, we are hoping for more thrilling contests here. I saw the pool which is in outstanding shape. FINA would like to thank QSA and sponsors for their contribution,” Mr. Craig said.
The races will be held in two sessions daily – morning heats at 10:00 and evening finals at 18:00 – on all the three days. Each individual event yields points for the top three finishers with gold getting 12 points, while silver and bronze medal will fetch 9 and points respectively. Each athlete can swim unlimited events, but can only score points from their best three finishes.
Each world record yields 20 points. Tying a world record is worth 10 points. The top 3 male and top 3 female swims of the meet earn bonus points. Top swims are determined based on FINA points and only the top-scoring swim from each athlete is counted.
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