The first cluster of the 2015 FINA World Cup series has been completed in Chartres, France. The first leg of this Cluster was held in Moscow, Russia, on August 11 and 12. The World Cup was launched in 1979 and is since then organized between August and November each year. The circuit is structured in clusters – these are: Europe, Asia and Middle East and distributes a total of prize money reaching USD 2 million. Each world cup meet includes the World Championships program without the women’s 1500 m freestyle and the men’s 800 m freestyle – so it is a total of 32 events, held over only two days with prelims in the mornings and finals in the evenings.
This year, the World Cup series starts with the first leg in Moscow immediately after World Championships in Kazan, Russia. You could ask: What causes top athletes after a season highlight to continue to travel crisscross through Europe, far away from home? The US National Team started their journey on July 22nd with a training camp in Croatia and most of them are returning home now – nearly a month later. The answer could be: The prize money, they can gain 1500 USD for a first place finish, 1000 USD for the second place and 500 USD for touching third. And for every cluster an extra bonus is paid for an overall winner, who reached the most points out of this ranking:
World Cup points – 1st – 12 pts, 2nd – 9 pts, 3rd – 6 pts
Those cluster bonuses are 40,000 USD for the European cluster and for the Asia and Middle East cluster 50.000 USD for each. The overall winners of the World Cup series will earn 100.000 USD for the win, 50.000 USD for second place and the third gets 30.000 USD.
During the last years, there were always a field of international superstars who competed in the World Cup – some swam the whole series and some swimmers like Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin made an appearance at only one meet – in the 2011 World Cup in Berlin where Missy set her first SC World record in the 200 m backstroke – but at this time she wasn’t allowed to keep the extra bonus for a World Record in the amount of 10.000 USD. But now, as she said in a press conference in Chartres on Friday, August 14th: “I will compete in more World Cup events but haven’t decided yet, where and when. And now I can keep the prize money.”
Franklin turned pro after spending two years at college where she competed in the NCAA’S whose rules requires that the athletes are amateurs. For Missy there is also another important reason to compete in the World Cup: Traditionally the series is in a 25 m pool but FINA changed this for 2015 to a LC pool because of the 2016 Olympic Games. Franklin’s coach Todd Schmitz stated: “Missy needs to get back to long course racing, obviously our collegiate system is all about short course yards. Short course yards racing is very different than going in a long pool. So I think that she must get back comfortable racing in a long course pool and the mental confidence will put her at the next level.”
Some of the other swimmers also see the long season until the World Championships and the World Cup as a mental challenge like Josh Schneider summarized on Sunday evening after his last race at the World Cup in Chartres, the 50 m freestyle which he won: ”It is mentally tough getting up for today because it is the last competition for me this year and I have been racing since July at Pan Ams and the Nationals and Moscow and then here and I’am mentally so tired but I wanted to win here and I did.”
On the one hand, the World Cup is an opportunity for the top swimmers to earn some money on the other hand they want to test their physical and mental fitness – to get some knowledge about their status to develop the trainings schedules for the time up to the Olympic Games. On the other hand, the swimmers have the chance to race against elite athletes in some of the best and fastest pools in the world. And especially a swim meet in France always is fun because the French audience is supportive and enthusiastic, Todd Schmitz added:” “I think this is a great facility but more important is the energy that was at the pool even at prelims. Especially finals were awesome and the enthusiasm goes into the pool and I know that Missy loves it and I heard numerous athletes who talked about how awesome the energy is. It is great to see 2000 fans dancing and cheering, that is an energy you can’t replicate.”
Katinka Hosszu, who won the complete World Cup series several times and races uncountable swim meets every year over the whole world, thinks: ”The fans in France are amazing. I always competed the Golden Tour and I think the French fans love swimming so it is definitely great to come here and race and I think they know a lot about swimming and they don’t focus only on the French swimmers – they do like swimming in general.” South African’s Chad Le Clos said, that he his swims weren’t very fast in Moscow but that with the support of the French crowd he was able to go faster in Chartres and that he appreciates this very much.
The French organizers did an amazing job over the two days of competition. On Saturday and Sunday already long queues of people stood for several hours before the start of the finals in front of the entrance. Already about 1.5 hours before the start, a warm up for the audience began – with entertainment, dancing, lots of music and “test” cheering. This mood was then transmitted through the rest of the evening to the swimmers who gave their best, despite the long hard weeks with trips and many days of competition.
After their last races in Chartres, we asked the athletes about their plans for the next weeks and most of them will have some rest like Missy: I’m officially on vacation now. I’m so happy.” Chad Le Clos will spend some days with his family in Paris, but, how could it be otherwise, the ‘iron lady’ Katinka Hosszu will return to training soon – she only will take a long weekend off because of her second anniversary next weekend – probably in Italy. And Germany’s Franziska Hentke returns with the so called “German discipline” into the next training’s rhythm for Rio immediately on Tuesday.
The next World Cup meets are:
- September 25-26 Hong Kong (HKG)
- September 29-30 Beijing (CHN)
- October 3-4 Singapore (SIN)
- October 28-29 Tokyo (JPN)
- November 2-3 Doha (QAT)
- November 6-7 Dubai (UAE)
The French Swimming Federation (FFN) signed a three years contract with the FINA until 2017. And they really proved with that World Cup meet that Chartres not only has a great facility and a fast pool to offer but also has a heart and a lot of enthusiasm for the sports of swimming.
All photos courtesy of SwimSwam Contributor, Daniela Kapser.