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World stars in Durban

Australian Olympic 100 metres breaststroke gold medallist Liesel Jones joins Australian team-mates Marieke Guehrer and Felicity Galvez in the hunt for medals, money and more, when the opening leg of the FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup series takes place at the Kings Park Aquatic Centre in Durban on Friday and Saturday.

Jones, who also made it on to the podium to claim gold as part of the Australian 4x100m medley relay line up and silver in the 200m breaststroke at the Beijing Olympics last year, is no stranger to setting world marks.

At US$10,000 per world record set in the series, Jones, 24, will be one of many swimmers looking to cash in, when she takes to the starting blocks for the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke races.

With the 100m breaststroke world short course mark of 1min 3.72sec to her name, Jones’s showdown with American Olympic star Jessica Hardy (1:04.22) could be one of the highlights of the two days of world class swimming in Durban. Hardy, holder of the world short course record in the 50m breaststroke in 29.58, will again face Jones, who has a season best of 29.99.

Guehrer, who topped the 2008 FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup women’s points standings to pocket $100,000, has had a successful 2009 in claiming gold in the 50m butterfly and bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the FINA World Championships held in Rome, Italy in July, and will take to the water in Durban in the 50m freestyle, 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly events.

The Australian star’s tussle with Sweden’s Therese Alshammar in the 50m butterfly could provide much excitement. Guehrer goes into the race with a short course season best of 24.99 (No 1 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 No 1 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.

National 50m backstroke record-holder Chanelle van Wyk will start the 50m backstroke fourth fastest in 27.78, with Dutch swimmer Hinkelien Schreuder (26.78), Geuhrer (27.23) and Brazil’s Fabiolo Molina (27.41) all set to be part of a fast race.

The hosting of the FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup in Durban in made possible through the support of loyal swimming partners in the form of Sport & Recreation SA, the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, Telkom and the City of eThekwini. Courtesy of Swimming South Africa, the prize money stakes are high with a gold medal worth $1500, a silver medal at $1000 and a bronze medal worth $500.

Following, the Durban leg of the series, 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).