DUBAI // Some of the world's top swimmers will take to the pool at the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex on Friday, hoping to claim the US$10,000 (Dh36,700) bonus for a world record over the next two days at the first tournament in the seven-race World Cup series.
Ranomi Kromowidjojo, the Dutch sprinter and the winner of two individual world titles at the same venue last year, headlines a field that includes swimmers from nearly 30 countries. Kenya's Jason Dunford, Italy's Samuel Pizzetti, South Africa's Chad Le Clos and the Russians, Evgeny Korotyshkin and Yuliya Efimova, are the others who might fancy their chances of setting world bests.
Kromowidjojo, who won a silver and bronze at the World Championships in July, has her sights on the 2012 London Olympics and she will be using the Dubai visit to gauge her preparations.
"I'm totally focused on the 2012 Olympic in London, so all races until then are in preparation for the Games," Kromowidjojo said. "But I'm looking forward to swimming in Dubai, especially to see and feel where I am right now.
"I really like Dubai with its warm weather and super accommodation and obviously I have great memories about my races last year, since they came so soon after my recovery from meningitis."
Dunford, a Stanford University graduate, had a rich haul at the All Africa Games last month. He won gold medals in the 50m and 100m butterfly, silvers in the 50m backstroke, 100m freestyle and 200m butterfly and a bronze in the 50m freestyle.
The 24 year old will, however, have a much tougher time in Dubai with Korotyshkin, the 100m butterfly short course world champion and world record-holder, and Le Clos, the 200m butterfly short course world champion, being in the fray this weekend.
"For many swimmers this World Cup will be the first important meet to use as a test ahead of Olympic year," said Korotyshkin, who holds the 100m butterfly world record. "I really hope to get a gold medal again and I'm very glad that I got a chance to take on this challenge in Dubai."
Le Clos said: "Dubai is my lucky hunting ground and almost feels like my second home because of last year's victory here. I'm really looking forward to swimming in Dubai, especially to see where I am at this moment."
A large contingent of Emirati swimmers is also taking part in the competition and the likes of Obaid Al Jasmi and Mubarak Al Besher will be hoping this experience will give them an edge at the Gulf Games in Bahrain later this month.
"Hosting these major international events is an important part of the growth of swimming, not only in Dubai and the UAE but the whole region," said Ahmed Al Falasi, the president of the UAE Swimming Federation.