Courtesy of Julia Galan / SwimSpire
At the Piscine D’Coque Aquatic Center in the heart of Luxembourg, the stage is already set for the arrival of the 18th Annual Euro Meet, an elite-level international competition that has been steadily gaining in popularity and prestige since its inception in 1999. This year’s event, to be held from the 29th-31st of January, 2016, has already garnered entries from international superstars such as Laszlo Cseh, Mireia Belmonte, Hannah Miley and Marco Koch, with more big names on the way. In a unique twist to the usual strict separation of levels in the European swimming community, these world-class swimmers will share the pool deck with Junior and Youth age group categories – swimmers as young as 13, who are at the top of the swimming pyramid in their own right.
Offering a fast 50-meter venue just before the 2016 Olympics and a bonus of €21,800 in prize money, the Euro Meet has achieved a distinctly global reach while still preserving its European roots. Indeed, the competition has its origins in the creation of the Euro as the new currency of the European Union on January 1st, 1999.
Luxembourg’s Nory Kruchten, immediate past president of LEN and Honorary Member of FINA, is the founder of the Euro Meet. He writes, “…[m]y dream at the time, shared by a few friends on the Luxembourg Swimming Federation, was to attract as many swimmers and achieve as many top performances as possible in our beautiful pool in the Kirchberg District of Luxembourg City. When the Euro was about to be introduced as the official currency in some of the countries of the European Community, the idea to create a great meet with prize money in Euros was born. This dream became a reality in January 1999 with the cooperation of the club Swimming Luxembourg.”
Despite struggling with a lack of funding that first year, the Euro Meet organizing committee’s hard work paid off with the participation of swimming federations and clubs from 16 different countries. Mr. Kruchten confirms, “…[o]ver the years, the meet has experienced a fantastic evolution. Prize money for meet records specifically was introduced in 2002, which led to an increasing quality of performances. In turn, this triggered interest from the press, and as their positive reports increased, key sponsors became involved and more swimmers and coaches wanted to be part of the competition.”
This snowball effect has led to the Euro Meet attracting clubs from up to 27 countries around the world, including the United States (Tom Dolan and Randall Bal), Australia (Ian Thorpe), South Africa, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates among others.
But while prize money and elite participation are important in helping to raise the reputation of the event, they are not the sole factors responsible for its popularity. A top-notch organizing committee, a unique setup, and the recognition of the competition as a qualifying event for multiple elite championships, including the Olympic Games, make the Euro Meet a competition that teams and federations want to attend multiple times.
The Euro Meet has been recognized by FINA as an official qualifying event every year, whether for the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio, or the World Championships. The 50-meter course and the meet’s placement in the swimming schedule make it an ideal choice for athletes to get their long course season off to a great start. But, despite its competitive edge, the Euro Meet also seeks to break down the barrier between elite and youth participants by offering Junior and Youth age group categories. High-level time standards remain in place for all respective categories, thus preserving the elite nature of the competition. As Euro Meet press officer Georges Kiehl notes, “…[o]ur intention was always to have an elite meet, but one that was also open to junior and youth swimmers. This allows young swimmers the opportunity to actually share the pool deck and even swim with the champions of the sport, not just to see them perform on television!” Given that the division between elite and age group swimmers is often very difficult to break in many international swimming communities, the Euro Meet’s decision to allow multi-level participation speaks to a core mission of our sport, that of motivating and inspiring rising stars to keep working towards fulfilling their dreams.
For the Luxembourg swimming community, the Euro Meet provides a unique opportunity. Euro Meet Director Gil Kandel remarks, “…the Euro Meet has two main goals: First, to host an international swimming event in Luxembourg that will promote swimming and the Luxembourg Swimming Federation to a wider international audience. And second, to give the Luxembourg swimmers the opportunity to compete against world class swimmers in front of their home crowd and in a pool that they know well.”
The international atmosphere is not limited to the pool deck alone, extending even to the organizing committee and the volunteers at the meet. Key officials such as the starter or the head referee, among others, are selected from the FINA swimming officials list, and the Euro Meet selects members of its organizing committee from the best of the best across Europe to ensure a maximum quality competition. Press officer Georges Kiehl originally hails from France, while speaker Jussi Salminen is a member of the Finnish Swimming Federation. Director Gil Kandel explains, “…[b]ack in 2010 at the Junior European Championships in Helsinki, I noticed Jussi Salminen announcing and was impressed by his skills. We were looking for a new announcer at that time, and I decided to ask him on the spot whether he would be interested in joining our event. Since then he has been with us every year. He also works for LEN and FINA at several European Championships and at World Cups such as in Doha. Officially, he represents the Finnish Federation as a Press Officer and so he also sometimes helps us out at international events to get interviews or pictures of our swimmers.”
And the Euro Meet is not limited to fast swimming alone. Another unique aspect of the competition is its strong partnership with UNICEF. Over four years ago, the Luxembourg Swimming Federation (FLNS) and UNICEF launched their own “FLNS and UNICEF – We Care About Water” program as an offshoot of LEN’s partnership program, with the Federation and the Euro Meet working together to raise funds for and promote access to clean water. As Gil Kandel explains, “…our partnership is an opportunity to highlight the importance of clean water in the world. Since 2011, FLNS and Euro Meet have raised over €9000. As a result, over 15 African villages now have access to clean water, and a total of 20 water pumps have been installed on the African continent.” Upon the renewal of the partnership last year, FLNS President Marco Stacchiotti remarked, “…we are very proud to have made the decision to first partner with UNICEF in 2011, and to be able to extend this relationship for another three years. Each club and each swimmer in Luxembourg contributes to this effort.” And UNICEF’s Luxembourg Director Sandra Visscher noted, “…both the Luxembourg Swimming Federation and UNICEF are busy within the water, but each one in a different manner. The Euro Meet is a splendid tool to promote our joint activities.”
From a high-quality organization, to record-breaking performances, to a unique mission, the Euro Meet is THE event to attend this January, whether as a swimmer or as a spectator, and this pre-Olympic competition should see some incredible races from the best of the best in the swimming world. FLNS President Marco Stacchiotti, Meet Director Gil Kandel, and the entire Euro Meet organizing committee are looking forward to welcoming all participants, teams, and spectators to the Piscine d’Coque from January 29th-31st, 2016! Registration ends on January 18th, so there is still time to enter the meet. For more information and to register, please check out the website at www.euromeet.lu
Still not convinced? Get a taste of the Euro Meet’s dynamic atmosphere in this promo video featuring highlights from 2015 :
ABOUT JULIA GALAN
Julia Galan is a lifelong competitive swimmer and a USA Swimming and U.S. Masters Swimming coach. Julia’s passion for the sport, for coaching and for writing led to the creation of Swimspire, a coaching and swimming inspiration source geared towards athletes of all levels and goals.