“Happy and thankful for being here”. The words are from Danish star Jeanette Ottesen, but express the general feeling among athletes ready to take part in the first 2020 leg of the FINA Champions Swim Series, starting this Tuesday in Shenzhen (CHN). There were four of them in the Press Conference opening the event: from China, superstars Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen and from the “rest of the world” Nicholas Santos (BRA) and Ottesen.

“Thank you FINA for the invitation”, started by saying Santos, the oldest competitor in the field, ready to complete 40 years old on February 14. “It’s my second time in the Series and I sincerely loved the inaugural edition in 2019. I swam pretty fast, I even improved a South American record, so I hope I can still do it better this year”, confessed the Brazilian star. “I really like the format of the Series, with four swimmers per race and direct finals – there is no place for mistakes!”

Santos was invited to swim in the 50m fly in 2020, and concluded the three legs of the 2019 edition with six medals (including three gold). The Brazilian veteran has three podium presences in his pet event at the FINA World Championships – silver in 2015 and 2017, and bronze in 2019. Finally, he has collected 10 medals at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m). 

For Ottesen, this will be her first-ever participation in the Series, but the “excitement” of being invited this time is a reality. The Danish great will take part in the 50m and 100m fly at both legs of the 2020 Series, in Shenzhen and Beijing (CHN, January 18-19).  

Sun Yang is also thrilled to be competing in Shenzhen. “I am quite familiar with this city, as in 2011, I was invited to be part of the Opening Ceremony of the Universiade. I also had the opportunity to swim here, and every time I see the Natatorium I see things improving. I wish the best luck to all swimmers and I am sure it will be a great competition”, Sun considered. Being an Olympic year, this is a special time for the Chinese ace: “I take this competition as an additional opportunity to train and set-up successful routines for my swimming”. The Chinese star has accumulated six Olympic and 16 World Championships’ medals throughout his career.

Ye Shiwen is also looking forward to competing in the Series. “It’s the first 2020 rendezvous, so I expect I can swim well and beat my own expectations. I will swim three events in the Olympic Games – 200m breast, 200m IM and 400m IM – and I expect to be on the podium in each of these races”, confessed Ye. The 23-year-old Chinese star was 2012 Olympic champion in the two individual medley events, while in 2019 she was silver medallist in both races at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju (KOR). 

On the most official side, Cornel Marculescu, FINA Executive Director, welcomed all the participating delegations to the competition and thank them for making this competition already a reference in the swimming calendar. “We have great champions here in Shenzhen and this is very important for the exposure – on the media and through digital platforms – of the Champions Swim Series”, he said. “I take this opportunity to sincerely express FINA’s gratitude to our great partner China, its Swimming Association and the local authorities responsible for the organisation of the Shenzhen and Beijing legs of the event”. Confirming the positive feedback and the satisfaction of athletes for being present in “this beautiful city”, Mr Marculescu revealed that most probably the 2021 edition of the Series will also have one stop in Shenzhen. 

Zhou Jihong, President of the Chinese Swimming Association and FINA Bureau Member, was also thrilled to receive the world swimming elite in her country. “We are always eager to demonstrate China’s great interest and ability to stage FINA events. This partnership has been very successful over the last years”, she admitted.

Before the Press Conference, all participants were invited to the Technical Meeting, where the highlight of the gathering was the draw of the relay teams for the competition. As in 2019, two mixed relay events are taking place, the 4x100m free (on Day 1) and the 4x100m medley (on Day 2). The four teams for both races are selected through a draw and may mix swimmers from different nationalities. For 2020, each of the teams will have a name, corresponding to the first selected man for the free relays and the first female swimmer to be picked up for the medley relays. The result of the draw was as follows:

Mixed 4x100m free relay:

Team Andrew – Michael Andrew (USA, M), Pieter Timmers (BEL, M), Sydney Pickrem (CAN, W), Wang Jianjiahe (CHN, W)

Team Kostin – Oleg Kostin (RUS, M), Xu Jiayu (CHN, M), Fu Yuanhui (CHN, W), Boglarka Kapas (HUN, W)

Team Kenderesi – Tamas Kenderesi (HUN, M), Zach Harting (USA, M), Femke Heemskerk (NED, W), Svetlana Chimrova (RUS, W)

Team Pebley – Jacob Pebley (USA, M), Andrii Govorov (UKR, M), Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED, W), Siobhan Haughey (HKG, W)

Mixed 4x100m medley relay:

Team Hulkko – Matt Grevers (USA, M), Ida Hulkko (FIN, W), Tamas Kenderesi (HUN, M), Siobhan Haughey (HKG, W)

Team Di Liddo – Apostolos Christou (GRE, M), Yan Zibei (CHN, M), Elena Di Liddo (ITA, W), Ajna Kesely (HUN, W)

Team Liu – Liu Yaxin (CHN, W), Felipe Lima (BRA, M), Nicholas Santos (BRA, M), Femke Heemskerk (NED, W)

Team Hannis – Michael Andrew (USA, M), Molly Hannis (USA, W), Svetlana Chimrova (RUS, W), Anthony Ervin (USA, M)