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SWC 2011, Dubai day 1: Chad Le Clos (RSA) scores a hat-trick

Swimming World Cup

DUBAI, UAE - Dubai acquires taste in organising international swimming events. After hosting the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) from December 15-19, 2010 the city continues this year by being part for the first time of the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup programme. 27 nations are in Dubai for the opening leg of the 2011 Series. The United Arab Emirates became the 19th country (and sixth Asian nation) and Dubai the 43rd city (and the seventh in Asia) to host a World Cup stage.   

On Day 1, three continents - Europe (six victories), Asia (six) and Africa (five) - shared the 17 events on the programme. Out of the 27 nations, 18 had a swimmer climbing the podium. And it looks like the Asian swimmers are well determined to impose themselves at this year's Series for the first time since 2002 with the introduction of the points table to establish the final individual rankings.

Le Clos and Jukic, a duel at the top

The young South African star Chad Le Clos (19 years old) imposed his lead with a nice triple success in the 100m IM (53.48, new PB) , 400m IM (4:04.58, a season's best time) and 200m butterfly (1:52.55, 911 points and the season's second best time). In the latter event, Le Clos swam less than a second off the time performance 1:51.56 which allowed him to obtain a World title in the same pool in December 2010. Austrian Dinko Jukic, European champion 2010 in the 200m butterfly, was not discouraged by his three losses to Le Clos and picked up three silver medals: he clocked 53.51 in the 100m IM, 4:05.65 in the 400m IM and 1:53.17 in the 200m butterfly. The bronze in the 200m butterfly and 100m IM went to Russia's young talent Andrey Tambovskiy (17 years old) while that from the 400m IM was reserved for Yuma Kosaka from Japan.

German Marco Koch (21 years old), sixth in the World last years in the 200m breaststroke, took two golds in the 50m and 200m breaststroke. He started by imposing himself in the sprint event in 27.51, 0.13 faster than Giulio Zorzi (RSA, 27.64) and Nelson Westby (USA, 27.90). His domination increased in the 200m event with a time of 2 :04.97, eight seconds ahead of Semen Markovich (RUS, 2:13.22) and Nelson Westby (USA, 2 :14.44). Koch made a third podium appearance for the minor medal in the 400m IM (4:12.27).

Jason Dunford (KEN) was also among the big winners on this first day with a double victory, first in the 100m freestyle (47.95), a performance close to his PB (47.49) which he also achieved at last year's World short course. Krisztian Takacs (HUN) took second in 48.32 and David Wong (HKG) placed third in 48.57. Dunford renewed his feat in the 50m butterfly with an imposing 23.33 in front of 2010 World runner-up, Andrii Govorov (UKR, 23.48) and World record holder in the 100m butterfly Evgeny Korotyshkin (RUS, 23.76).

Three season's best times

China's Shijia Wang took out the women's 200m freestyle in 1:56.76, ahead of Swedish Petra Granlund (1:57.00). Hong Kong saw another of its swimmers making the podium for the second time in a day: Hang Yu Sze took the bronze with a time of 1:57.08. It was a double and second success for Chinese Xiaoyu Liu (20 years) in the women's 100m breaststroke, who was granted the season's second best performance (1:04.79, 906 points), missing by 0.01 the Chinese record held by Liping Ji (1:04.78). Rong Fan took silver (CHN, 1:05.92) while Yulia Efimova finished third (RUS, 1:06.42). China picked up a third victory thanks to Junyao Wang, winner of the women's 100m butterfly in 58.05, ahead of Sweden's Petra Grandlund (58.70) and Louise Hansson (58.94). 

After China, it was Japan's turn to gather three victories. Masafumi Yamaguchi (52.28) took out the men's 100m backstroke in front of Nelson Silva (BRA, 53.60) and Evgeny Korotyshkin (RUS, 54.90). Teammates Miyuki Takemura in the women's 50m backstroke (27.12) and Izumi Kato in the women's 200m IM (2:09.04) completed the collection with a gold each. The first led the race with only 0.02 in what was a tight race with Ukraine's Daryna Zevina (27.14) while Czech Simona Baumrtova settled for the bronze (27.75). Another Czech swimmer climbed the podium with a second-place finish in the women's 200m IM: Barbora Zavadova clocked 2:11.40 in front of Sweden's Petra Granlund 2:13.09 who made her third podium of the day. 

Europe's best performance was offered by Daryna Zevina from Ukraine, winner in the women's 200m backstroke in 2:02.94 (934 points) which is also a season's best time and a new national record. Behind Zevina, the Czech swimmers Simona Baumrtova (2:07.25) and Barbora Zavadova (2:07.30) finished in second and third place, respectively.

On top of the three breathtaking duels offered by Le Clos-Jukic, a fierce battle played out in the women's field between teammates Ranomi Kromowidjojo, twice World champion in Dubai last year in the 50m and 100m freestyle, and Marleen Veldhuis from the Netherlands in the 50m freestyle. The latter eventually took the edge by 0.09 with a time of 24.14 (a season's best time) while China's Junyao Wang was awarded the bronze (24.85).

Italy and Slovenia concluded the day with a victory each. Samuel Pizzetti won the 400m freestyle in 3:45.45 ahead of Gustav Aaberg Lejdstroem (SWE, 3:47.28) and Segii Frolov (UKR, 3:47.82). As for Spela Bohinc, she comfortably dominated the women's 800m freestyle (8:45.43), touching home before fellow swimmer Tanja Smid (9:17.58) and local Aysha Berghuis (9:25.59). They were the only three racing in the event. 

Quotes of the day:  

Jason Dunford (KEN): "My main stroke is butterfly so I’m really pleased to get the gold in 100m freestkye, it’s really great. In the 50m butterfly, I'm impressed with my form because I’m in hard training at the moment and have been working very hard so to swim half a second of my best time is very encouraging for me."

Chad Le Clos (RSA): "Dinko is a great swimmer so I knew it would be a tough race. I just tried to stay with him. Luckily, he didn’t get too far ahead on the breaststroke and I had enough to come back at the end. I knew what I wanted to do and glad it all came together. I’m happy with my times. It’s still quite a bit off my best but I’m happy with that swim."

Dinko Jukic (AUT): "It has been a tough evening. It’s always fun racing against Chad. I have the 200m IM and 100 butterfly tomorrow and I’ll come up against Chad again."

Samuel Pizzetti (ITA): "I feel very good about my race. I’ve been training for just one month and I am getting ready for the Olympic games. I’m only swimming in the Dubai leg so glad I won."

Marleen Veldhuis (NED): "It was a good race. I felt good on the block ,coming back was a bit tougher but that’s just training. Ranomi and I train together very hard in the same lane, 20 hours a week so of course there is a bit of a rivalry, but that makes us both better."