The World Cup Series hits Europe for the first time in 2010 this weekend. Moscow (2-3 November) and Stockholm (6-7 November) are the final two stops on the tour.
On paper this looks like the strongest short course competition so far in 2010. Germany, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Hungary, Poland & Norway have all sent strong teams. Australia and the US both have some of their big names competing too. However, the biggest story revolves around the return to the pool of two Olympic Gold medalists.
Germany's double Olympic Gold medalist Britta Steffen makes her competitive return after a long spell suffering from injury and sickness. Only 26, Steffen recently admitted that she had considered retirement during her break from competition. The German certainly won't have it easy on her return in the 50 and 100m Free as she goes up against the likes of Therese Alshammar, Hinkelien Schreuder, Femke Heemskerk, Dana Vollmer as well as compatriots Daniela Schreiber & Dorothea Brandt.
Berlin will also mark the first competition for Steffen since she announced her relationship with boyfriend Paul Biedermann (who's getting his blog on again). Biedermann will
Its gone relatively unnoticed, but Berlin will also mark the return of another Olympic champion at her first major meet of 2010, Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry. Coventry now trains in South Africa and returned to competition at a local meet in SA at end of September. Like Steffen, Coventry will have some fierce competition in Berlin. She's down to compete in the 50, 100, 200m Back and the 100, 200m IM. Amongst her competitors will be Sanja Jovanovic, Anastasia Zueva, Hinkelien Schreuder, Belinda Hocking, Julia Smit, Evelyn Verraszto and Zsuzanna Jakabos.
World Cup Points leaders Thiago Pereira and Therese Alshammar have pretty much wrapped up the men's and women's titles (and the $100,000 that comes with it). The only other swimmers with a sniff at the prize are Darian Townsend and Julia Smit.
Pal Joensen (FAR) (400m & 1500m Free) will be worth watching out for as will the French trio of Fabien Gilot (50, 100, 200m Free), Camille Lacourt (50, 100, 200m Back) & 100m Free , William Meynard (50, 100, 200m Free). Lacourt, a member of Team Speed Endurance 2010, a three pronged team of the world's best performers this year(The other members are Ryan Lochte & Rebecca Soni), should put in some excellent swims in the sprint backstroke events.
The Germans are sending an elite team to their home leg of the World Cup. Steffen Deibler (50, 100m Free & Fly) has performed well all year, especially in SC metres (great turns) whilst Silke Lippok (50, 100, 200m Free & 100m IM) has been one of the breakout stars of 2010.
The Hungarian team is also strong and will feature Zsuzanna Jakabos (100m, 400m IM, 200m Free & Back), Evelyn Verraszto (100m, 200m Back & IM), Agnes Mutina (200m, 400m Free, 200m IM) and David Verraszto (200m Fly, Back & 400m, 1500m Free).
Europe's top male breaststroker, Alexander Dale-Oen, will also be on display in the 50m, 100m and 200m Breast.
South Africa, a staple of the World Cup series have strong representation once again, Roland Schoeman (50m Brst, Fly & Free),
Russia also are sending their best ahead of the home leg in Moscow. Anastasia Chaun & Yulia Efimova (50m, 100m & 200m Brst), Sergiy Fesikov (50m Back, 50m, 100m Free & 100m IM), Evgeny Korotyshkin (50m, 100m Fly), Nikolay Skvortsov (50m, 100m, 200m Fly), Arkady Vyatchanin (50m, 100m, 200m Back) and Anastasia Zueva (50m, 100m Back) should give Russia a fair share of Top 3 finishes.
Very smart from the US Team with a mixture of household names and youngsters. Its a great opportunity for the established swimmers to make some money, whilst the experience for the younger swims in an international team is invaluable. Dana Vollmer (50, 100m Fly, 100, 200m Free) makes her short course metres debut and is joined by Julia Smit (50m, 100m, 400m Free, 100m, 200m IM, 200m Back), Elaine Breeden (50m, 100m, 200m Fly, 100m, 200m IM), Randall Bal & Peter Marshall (50m, 100m Back). It will be exciting to see William Copeland race short course metres in Europe when he competes in the 50m, 100m, 200m Free as well as the 50m and 100m Fly. Jasmine Tosky (200, 400m IM, 100, 200m Fly, 200m Free) will be another youngster to look out for.
Other Star Swimmers attending.
Belinda Hocking (AUS), Thiago Pereira (BRA), Felipe Silva (BRA), Kristel Kobrich (CHI), Omar Pinzon (COL), Kvetoslav Svoboda (CZE), Yannick Lebherz (GER), Jenny Mensing (GER), Johannes Dietrich (GER), Hendrik Feldwehr (GER), Alexandra Wenk (GER), Lucien Hassdenteufel (GER) (FYI he's got a rockstar name - his surname translates to 'Hate The Devil'), Theresa Michalak (GER), Daniela Schreiber (GER), Grainne Murphy (IRE - entered 8 events!), Vytautus Janusaitis (LTU), Giedzius Titenis (LTU), Femke Heemskerk (NED), Hinkelien Schreuder (NED), Ingvild Snildal (NOR), Konrad Czerniak (POL), Pawel Korzeniowski (POL), Kathryn Meaklim (RSA), Amanda Loots (RSA), George Du Rand (RSA), Joline Hoestman (SWE), Sarah Sjoestroem (SWE), Stefan Nystrand (SWE), Jennie Johansson (SWE),
Start List - Here
Video - Here
Results - Here
(Just to get a personal wish in, all the best to the swimmers from SC Magdeburg & SC Wiesbaden. Mageburg was my old team when I was in Germany and Wiesbaden has a great coach by the name of Mircea Hohoiu (ex-coach of Michael Gross & Tamara Costache))