DUBAI // When you hear people talking about the differences between hard water and soft water, there is only one explanation: the International Swimming Federation (Fina) has returned to town.
The fourth round of the Fina Swimming World Cup gets underway Thursday at the Hamdan Sports Complex, the shimmering blue facility located on the edge of the Emirates Road and referred to by aquatic-minded people as having a “fast pool”.
It is the third time a leg of the World Cup has been held at the Dubai complex and, as is the trend in this part of the world, the event is gradually becoming bigger and better than before.
More than 330 athletes from about 40 countries will compete over the next two days, statistics that Soren Korbo, Fina’s honorary secretary, cites as proof that “swimming is growing and getting more popular here”. Around 40 swimmers representing the UAE will compete.
Yesterday, with hair still wet from a morning practice session, Olympic and world champion Chad Le Clos confirmed what anybody who has even dipped a toe into the world of elite swimming already knows: the South African is not here to make up numbers.
“I am here to win as many medals as I can,” the 21-year-old Durban native with the enviable habit of doing just that, said.
“That’s always the aim. I got pretty close to the world record a couple of days ago [at the World Cup third leg in Moscow], so if I can get a little closer here, that would be great. Otherwise, I’m looking to get as many points as I can to extend my lead at the top.”
The World Cup is an eight-leg championship with points being awarded following each round using a Fina scale as complex as quantum physics and based on world record times. The overall top scorer at the end of the season wins US$100,000 (Dh360,000).
Le Clos leads the men’s championship by 56 points, almost double that of third-placed Australian Kenneth To.
Katinka Hosszu, the reigning female World Cup champion, will compete in at least 10 events this weekend as she looks to extend what is already a titanic lead at the top of the women’s standings.
The Hungarian has 384 points after four rounds, which is 254 more than any other female swimmer in the series.
“My goal is to be top three in my events. That’s the target, but I’d love to win the IMs [individual medleys] and the 200-metre butterfly,” she said.
Hosszu left Moscow with 10 medals, including three golds, and tempered expectations ahead of today’s action.
“I’m not as rested as I was in the first two rounds,” she said. “I do feel a little bit tired and have been training pretty hard in September. I will do my best and hopefully get pretty close to the records, but we’ll see.”
For Dubai, this weekend’s World Cup is the latest in an ever-expanding list of swimming events held at arguably the emirate’s finest facility. The Hamdan Sports Complex hosted the Short Course World Championships in 2010, when Ryan Lochte threatened to put the city’s gold souks out of business. It also hosted the Junior World Championships in July. Korbo said the desert oasis is home to “one of the best, if not the best, pool in the world”.
The last time Le Clos and Hosszu competed here was in the opening round of the 2012 World Cup, where the South African won the 100m and 200m butterfly and Hosszu took seven golds and a bronze. It is of little surprise then to hear the Hungarian is pleased to be back.
“Swimmers always say it is a fast pool or that it has hard water or soft water, but for me this pool just has great water,” she said. “I love it.”
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