The next stop of FINA’s World Cup series kicks off tomorrow in Beijing, China. Here’s a quick primer on what to watch for:
1. Women’s Backstrokes Loaded
There isn’t an event discipline more loaded with big names than the women’s backstrokes. Last weekend’s Hong Kong stop already featured double world champ Emily Seebohm and Olympic champ Missy Franklin, plus three-time defending World Cup champ Katinka Hosszu. But the Beijing meet adds Yu Fuanhui, the world champ in the 50 backstroke last month.
2. Yamaguchi returns in 200 Breast
Japan’s Akihiro Yamaguchi took the world by storm in 2012 with a new world record in the 200 breaststroke at 2:07.01. But Yamaguchi hasn’t even approached that time in the 3 years since – in fact, Yamaguchi hasn’t broken 2:09 since the 2012 season.
But Yamaguchi will compete in Beijing, which should be a major benchmark for what fans can expect from the breaststroker heading into the Olympic year.
3. All Eyes on Missy Franklin
One of the unquestioned stars of the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World Championships, Franklin has had some struggles internationally the past two summers. She faces a gauntlet of great backstrokers in Beijing, and gets another crack at Australia’s Emily Seebohm, who has become Franklin’s greatest rival of late.
4. Sibling Rivalry continues for Campbells
Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell have one of the world’s most competitive sisterly relationships. Older sister Cate nabbed the spotlight with a 2013 World Championships and a stellar 2014 season, but little sister struck back when Bronte upset Cate for both 50 and 100 free golds at the 2015 World Championships.
Cate got back on top with wins in Hong Kong, but the two will square off again in Beijing.
5. A Hungary IM Sweep?
Another nation with a formidable 1-2 punch is Hungary in the IM races. Katinka Hosszu is continually untouchable on the World Cup circuit, but teammate Zsuzsanna Jakabos has risen to become Hosszu’s top comptition. The two went 1-2 in the 400 IM in Hong Kong and 1-3 in the 200 IM.
This is an IM group that dominates both laterally and horizontally. Beside Hosszu at the top of the IM lists is her male counterpart David Verraszto, who won a gold and a bronze in Hong Kong. All three will swim in Beijing. Could we see a straight Hungarian sweep of the IM races, including a 1-2 in the women’s events?
6. Van der Burgh and Sakai battle for bonuses
The women’s point race hasn’t been interesting since, well, since Hosszu started going after the World Cup back in 2012. But the men’s race is as intriguing as it’s ever been. South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh leads the men’s points, taking that spot when his countryman Chad le Clos, the defending series champ, elected to pass on the second cluster.
But the big money of the series comes in the form of cluster bonuses, given to the top athletes in each multi-meet cluster. Beijing is the second of three meets in Cluster #2, and currently Van der Burgh and Masato Sakai are tied for the cluster points lead. The difference between 1st and 2nd place is a whopping $15,000 in bonus cash, so watch for both men to go after points aggressively in Beijing.