An array of open water swimmers, several of them champions on the global stage, will battle for glory at the FINA/Hosa Marathon Swim World Series to be held off Dohaâ€™s Corniche today.
The Doha leg is the first of nine events in the series held across the world with about 115 long-distance swimmers (43 women and 72 men) taking part in three gruelling races. A total prize fund of $550,000 is up for grabs in the event.
â€œWe are happy to welcome all swimmers to Doha for this prestigious event,â€ President of the Qatar Swimming Association (QSA) and FINA Bureau Member, Khalil al-Jabir told a press conference.
â€œItâ€™s one of the several FINA events that we will be hosting until 2021 as we have signed four-year agreement with the FINA. Doha will also host 2023 FINA World Aquatics Championships and we hope the athletes coming here will thoroughly enjoy their experience,â€ he added.
Honorary Secretary of the FINA Technical Open Water Committee, Samuel Greethan, said the event will be a huge success.
â€œThis is our first time in Doha and we hope it will be a jewel in FINAâ€™s crown. We look forward to exciting races,â€ he said.
The menâ€™s competition will see 2016 Olympics and 2017 world champion Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands starting as the strong favourite, but he is expected to face stiff competition from Great Britainâ€™s Jack Burnell, who finished in fourth place at the last World Championships.
â€œI am happy and very excited to be competing in Doha for the first time,â€ said Weertman.
â€œIt will be a very strong competition as worldâ€™s best athletes are here. I like the conditions here in Doha as it is not very hot and I am looking forward to win the race,â€ he said.
The womenâ€™s elite competition will also see an exciting showdown between open water marathon specialist Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil, Rio 2016 Olympic champion, Sharon Van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands, 2017 World Series winner, Arianna Bridi and Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist, Rachele Bruni, both of Italy and 2017 World silver medallist Samantha Arevalo of Ecuador besides many other top swimmers.
â€œI am expecting a very tough race and I will give my best to win. I am happy to be competing here in Doha as the conditions look very good,â€ said Ana Marcela.
Meanwhile, residents of Qatar will get a unique experience today as tomorrowâ€™s races are integrated with the Open Water Challenge, giving fans a chance to taste experience just like the professional swimmers.
The Open Water Challenge Race will start at 13:30 and is open to anyone over the age of 11 years old and will enable people of all abilities to swim the same course on Dohaâ€™s picturesque Corniche, a day before Olympic and world champions take to the water.
The contest consists of three categories available for the public: 400m for boys and girls aged 11-14, 800m for boys and girls aged 15-17, and 1,200m for boys and girls aged 18 and over.
The exclusive experience will also see public participants enjoy the same facilities and full services as the elite athletes, including the athlete pre-race call-room, the same starting platform, live athlete tracking and entering the post-race mixed zone, enabling everyone to be a world-class athlete for the day.
To top off the experience, the elite champions will be on hand during the Open Water Challenge to cheer on the participants and provide tips, advice and insights into what it takes to be a champion. With weather and water temperatures expected to be ideal and the course taking place in front of Dohaâ€™s stunning skylines, competitors will have the opportunity to sample the very best of open-water swimming.
Source: Gulf Times