Expect more star dust
Top swimmers set to come for S'pore leg of Fina World Cup as series will now count for Olympic qualification
The Fina World Cup is already a prestigious competition series in the annual swimming calendar, with the participation of world-class stars such as Olympic champions Chad le Clos (South Africa) and Ruta Meilutyte (Lithuania).
This year though, the eight-leg series will take on even more gloss and importance, as Fina - swimming's world governing body - has switched the short-course series to long course, and designated all eight stops as Olympic qualifying meets for Rio 2016.
This means that swimmers will compete in 50m pools, instead of the traditional 25m pool format.
Fina president Dr Julio Maglione said: "Our main goal is to continuously improve the value and the exposure of the Fina swimming World Cup, held in great venues and prestigious cities around the planet.
"The increased opportunity for the Olympic qualification will constitute in 2015 an additional motivation for our swimmers."
The series will kick off in Moscow on Aug 11 and 12, and end in Dubai on Nov 6 and 7, with Singapore hosting the fifth stop on Oct 3 and 4.
Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy said that Fina informed the national sports association of the change last Tuesday, but does not foresee "much changes" in the organisation of the event.
He said: "We will be expecting more swimmers to be competing in the Fina World Cup as they look to qualify for the Olympic Games.
"This will also mean that with more swimmers and stars coming to Singapore, we can also expect a big crowd at the OCBC Aquatic Centre over the two days."
The Singapore leg will provide the Republic's home-based Olympic hopefuls with the chance to make the qualifying times.
At the moment, Quah Zheng Wen is the only Singaporean to make the "A" qualifying mark, when he clocked 1min 56.85sec in the men's 200m butterfly in the Spanish Open in March.
Asked if this means Singapore's swimmers will be sent for more overseas World Cup legs, Lee said: "Sergio (Lopez, national coach) and the high performance team are reviewing the possibilities created with these new developments."
Asian Games champion and Olympic hopeful Joseph Schooling is unlikely to make the World Cup, though.
The Texas-based swimmer said yesterday: "I am looking to the SEA (South-east Asia) Games and the world championships to qualify for the Olympics.
"If I fall short of qualifying for the Olympics at either meet, I might think about it.
"It's not very likely that I'll take part in the World Cup though, as there are so many other meets in the US that would be more suitable."
Singapore will host the 28th SEA Games from June 5 to 16, while Kazan, Russia, is the venue of the Fina world championships in July and August.