DUBAI // The opening round of the 2012 Fina Swimming World Cup will get off to a star-studded start at Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex in Dubai today with nine world record holders and two gold medal winners from the London Olympic Games in the fray.
Cameron van der Burgh, who set a world 100m breaststroke record, will be the headline act at the two-day meeting alongside his South African compatriot Chad le Clos, the Olympic 200m butterfly champion.
The event will also feature the Swedish superstar Therese Alshammar, the reigning and four-time World Cup champion who holds the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly World Cup records. Her time of 24.38 seconds in the 50m butterfly is also the short course (25m) world record.
The event has attracted more than 190 swimmers from 32 countries, including Evgeny Korotyshkin, the men's 100m butterfly world record holder.
"London was a great swimming event," said Cornel Marculescu, the executive director of Fina, world's swimming governing body. "It's a great challenge for them to continue training after the Olympics. These swimmers are swimming 15km to 20km every day in training and the efforts can be really tiring."
Some of the UAE's most promising swimmers, including Mubarak Al Besher, will also be competing. The UAE-based Serbian, Velimir Stjepanovic, who reached the final of the men's 200m butterfly in London, will also be adding to the local flavour.
"There are so many great swimmers competing and we know we will have to produce our best efforts to match it with them," said Al Besher, who was a wild card at the London Games.
"Having regular competitions of this standard is really good for swimming in the UAE, it's exciting for the crowds and it inspires us to train harder."
The Dubai leg of the World Cup will feature 36 competitions, including two mixed relays, which are making their first appearance at a World Cup. "It's a good opportunity to try it out at the World Cup and we'll probably get to see some different competitions," Alshammar said.
Van der Burgh said: "I think it will be interesting. You always need to try and keep swimming up and exciting, and the only way you can grow and make the sport interesting and more professional for more people is by getting more people involved and more events."
LEADING LIGHTS IN THE POOL
Chad le Clos, South Africa
The reigning World Cup champion, Le Clos edged out his hero Michael Phelps by 0.05 seconds in London to win the 200m butterfly gold. The South African also took the silver medal in the 100m butterfly and after his exploits at the Olympics, Le Clos is one of the hottest properties in swimming.
Cameron van der Burgh, South Africa
The holder of two breaststroke short course world records is also the 2012 Olympic 100m breaststroke champion. Van der Burgh is one of the biggest stars in the line-up having won the World Cup twice before, in 2008 and 2009. He will be looking for a good start in Dubai as he tries to win back the crown.
Therese Alshammar, Sweden
The Swede turned 35 in August, but age has not diminished her enthusiasm for the sport. She won two silver medals at the 2000 Sydney Games and is the queen of short-course swimming with four World Cup titles. She is no pushover in the long course either, having won the 50m freestyle gold and the 50m butterfly silver at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships.
Evgeny Korotyshkin, Russia
The holder of the 100m butterfly short course world record, the Russian took silver in the event at the London Games, tied with Le Clos in a time of 51.44 seconds, 0.23 seconds behind Phelps. Korotyshkin will be renewing his rivalry with Le Clos in Dubai.
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