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Star-studded programme

While the Cameron van der Burgh/Roland Schoeman swim speed show is set to draw the crowds to Saturday and Sunday’s FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup at the Kings Park Aquatic Centre in Durban, a host of other swim stars and rising talent could also add to the sports entertainment mix.

With US$10,000 for each world record set during the five-leg FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup circuit, Van der Burgh ÔÇô holder of the 50 metres breaststroke (25.43sec) and 100m breaststroke (55.99sec) world marks ÔÇô may be dreaming of seizing the moment yet again, but the swimming vibe on the day will be the deciding factor.

ÔÇ£I will only know if the world record attempt is on when I dive from the start blocks into the water,ÔÇØ said van der Burgh, whose top-placed points finish on last year’s FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup series earned him the $100┬á000 prize ÔÇô the same prize money that is up for grabs this year.

ÔÇ£There are so many factors to consider. If the crowd inside the venue is large and make enough noise, then it’s a great motivation to a swimmer. I will only know on the day from the way I feel when I wake up, until I hit the water, whether a record attempt is on.ÔÇØ

US-based Neil Versfeld will be jetting into Durban to compete in his first FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup event in SA in four years and goes into the breaststroke races as second fastest to Van der Burgh ÔÇô clocking in at 26.44 in the 50m breaststroke and 58.00 over the 100m.

Like Van der Burgh, Schoeman made the most of his opportunities at the Telkom SA Short Course Championships held in Pietermaritzburg, in setting a world best of 20.30 in the 50m freestyle.

ÔÇ£The FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup in Durban will be a good opportunity to gauge my form leading into the world short course series,ÔÇØ said Schoeman, who returned from the US at the end of last year having studied psychology and sports management.

ÔÇ£I have been working hard in the gym and feeling a lot stronger than I was a few weeks ago. To be honest, the world record in Pietermaritzburg was a bit of a surprise to me after a relatively quiet swim season.ÔÇØ

With medals up for grabs at $1,500 (gold), $1,000 (silver) and $500 (bronze), Schoeman will also fancy his chances of getting among the honours in the 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly.
American Peter Marshall will start the 50m backstroke as the firm favourite. His entry time of 22.90 is vastly superior to the rest, but FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup events are known for being the scenes of many an upset, and Russian Stanislav Donets (23.22), Brazilian Daniel Orzechowski (24.00) and SA’s Gerhard Zandberg (24.13) could well cause a few anxious moments.

Young South Africans in national 50m backstroke champion Garth Tune (24.29) and another Durban favourite Charl van Zyl (25.11) will also make their presence felt among world-class competition.

Expect fireworks in terms of speed and endurance when Durbanites Riaan Schoeman and Chad le Clos take to the water in the 400 metres individual medley. Schoeman claimed gold in 4:05.67 at a time when le Clos was struggling with illness, and the Westville Boys High scholar ÔÇô will be looking to make a close race of it against Schoeman.

Australian Marieke Guehrer, who finished top of the 2008 FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup women’s points standings to pocket $100,000, has been in fine form this year in taking the gold medal in the 50m butterfly and bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the FINA World Championships held in Rome, Italy in July, and compete in Durban in the 50m freestyle, 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly events.

The Australian’s showdown with Sweden’s Therese Alshammar in the 50m butterfly could be one of the highlights of the two-day event. Guehrer goes into the race with a short course season best of 24.99 (No1 ranked time in the world) with Alshammar next best on 25.07.
Galvez, a former world record-holder in the 50 and 100m butterfly short course events, will be in action in the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle and butterfly events.

In the 200m butterfly, SA’s Mandy Loots (second on the rankings in 2:07.69) and Kathryn Meaklim (third on the 2008 FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup women’s points rankings) will take up the challenge to the No1 ranked Galvez (2:04.09).

National 200 and 400m individual medley record-holder Meaklim will start the 200m individual medley with the fastest entry time of 2:10.03, followed by American Whitney Myers (2:10.11) and Somerset College matric pupil and Olympic star Jessica Pengelly (2:10.80). Meaklim and Pengelly will also face each other in several other races including the 400m individual medley and the 800m freestyle.

The morning session of the swimming will take place at the Kings Park Aquatic Centre on October 16-17 from 9.30am with the evening programme beginning at 5.30pm. Entrance to watch the swimming is free of charge.

Following, the Durban leg of the series in which 115 SA swimmers and 58 foreign athletes will be in action, the FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup will move to  Moscow, Russia (November 6-7), Stockholm, Sweden (November 10-11), Berlin, Germany November 14-15) and Singapore (November 21-22).