Colin Hill, FINA Correspondent

The first race of the FINA Marathon Swim World Series 2019 is about to take place, once more, at Doha’s stunning Corniche. Extending for seven kilometres along Doha Bay in Qatar’s capital, the Corniche is a waterfront promenade and the centrepiece for the city.

The athletes will be competing over the 10km course with four laps of 2.5km. Doha’s central business district and the bold shapes of the Museum of Islamic Art form the stunning backdrop for this race.

With two days before the race, training swim sessions took place on the course. Conditions were good with the water temperature in the bay at around 20.5 degrees C and air temp reaching 23 degrees C.

With less than five months before the FINA World Championships in South Korea, the first leg of the FINA Marathon Swim Series is important for the swimmers to not only test their own form but also to see how they compare with other swimmers this season. The event is also being used by several countries as a qualifying event for the their national teams to compete in the World Championships.

In the 2018 edition of the Series in Doha, the Netherlands reigned supreme with wins from two Olympic Champions: Sharon Van Rouwendaal and Ferry Weertman, although Ferry Weertman will not be competiting this year as he is still on a training camp.

This year should be an even bigger test with appoximately 88 male and 60 female athletes from countries all vying for the top positions (the only major absence being the French team).

The race will be held on Saturday February 16 at 09:00 (Women) and 13:00 (Men) local time.

At the Press Conference hosted by former swimmer Nada Arakji (Qatars’ first female to compete in the Olympics). The top table included Khaleel Al-Jabir (President Qatar Swimming Association), John West (Fina Technical Delegate) and the elite athlete representatives Sharon Van Rouwendaal (NED) and Simone Ruffini (ITA)

Khaleel Al-Jabir said: “This year is an important race as it is good preparation for the FINA Open Water World Championships. We are very pleased with the growth in the numbers for this elite race on the Corniche and we are looking forward for the race to start and we wish all the athletes good luck. This is a good step for us as Qatar will host the FINAWorld Championship in 2023 including the Marathon Swimming event, so this helps us prepare towards 2023 and work closely with FINA. We have a lot of local Qatar swimmers, although they are still relatively young at 16 and 17 to be competing against world class athletes such as Sharon Van Rouwendaal and Simone Ruffini, but it is great experience for them and we are expecting a lot for the future. “

John West said: “Over the past few days we have been at the venue reviewing all the arrangements of the competition and we are very pleased with the level of organisation. We would like to thank the Qatar Swimming association for their support in this event”.

Sharon Van Rowendaal said: “Conditions are looking really good, I like the water temperature (approx. 20.5 degrees), the course is excellent like last year and its good to be back in Doha. Last year I won this race and I think that I’m feeling really strong, but the other girls will be strong as well. As it’s a qualifying event for some teams, the teams will be strong. It depends on how I feel on the day what my tactics will be, with large numbers you will have to watch what others do and watch out for any breaks in the pack.”

 

Simone Ruffini “I’m really happy to be here in Doha. I’m feeling strong for this race and as this is a qualifying event for the Italian team for the World Champs, this is very important to me. I’m also happy that there are lots of swimmers in this race.

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