The first leg of the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series 2021 is set to be staged in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday March 13, as 99 athletes from 27 countries confirmed their participation.

The season-opening meet will take place at Katara Beach under a very strict COVID-19 protocol which will assure the athletes, coaches and officials safety and well-being. The participants will remain in controlled and protected zones throughout the event.

The women's race is scheduled to start at 9:00am, while the men will swim at 11:30am (times subject to change depending on weather conditions).

The entry lists are composed of many top ranked athletes, including: Olympic title holder Ferry Weertman (NED), Olympic bronze medallist Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA), 2019 FINA World Championships gold medallist (5km) Kristof Rasovszky (HUN), Olympic and World champion Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA), Brazil's veteran Allan Do Carmo. Logan Fontaine and Axel Reymond (FRA), Jack Burnell (GBR), Matteo Furlan and Simon Ruffini (ITA), Evgenij Pop Acev (MKD) and Marcel Schouten (NED) are also amongst the strongest contenders.

The women’s field is equally star-studded with open water marathon veteran and World champion Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA), Rio 2016 silver medallist Rachele Bruni (ITA) and European champion Arianna Bridi (ITA), open water rising star Leonie Beck (GER), Samantha Arevalo (ECU), Aurelie Muller (FRA) and Anna Olasz (HUN).

Following Qatar Swimming Association President Khaleel Al Jabir welcome remark during the virtual press conference held this morning, FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione said:

"One year ago, also in this beautiful scenario, our last open water event was held. It was just before the worldwide lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, our planet lived an unprecedented situation in time of peace and our athletes have strongly suffered with this situation.
Since the beginning of this year, with global vaccination plans being implemented in most of the countries, we see some light in the end of the tunnel.
Our competitions resumed in January, respecting strict sanitary and health protocols. This will be the case also in Doha.
I am sure that our marathon swimmers have been waiting for this day with joy and enthusiasm. We are coming back to a sort of “normal life” and everyone is excited to compete again!"

"On this occasion, I once more thank our hosts from Qatar for their continuous support and help. This country is a strong FINA partner and we are always happy to be in Doha!
Our athletes will also enjoy the Qatari hospitality and will keep a nice memory from this competition," he concluded.

FINA Technical Delegate Andrea Prayer also expressed a heartfelt thanks to the organisers and the sponsors for their commitment for hosting a competition in a safe environment.

The floor was then given to the three athletes taking part in the virtual event.

Gwangju bronze medallist Leonie Beck (GER) and last year's winner in Doha: "We haven't raced for a year so I am very excited to race again and very happy about this event to finally take place. We have all missed competition!"

Current Olympic champion Ferry Weertman (NED): "It is so good we can finally have a competition. With all the testing and quarantine imposed upon arrival in the respective room, it feels quite safe and it is important because I know I won't get sick here. I am excited to be here and to see what shape everyone is in. I am going to do my best here, I always race to win. This year we have trained a lot compared to other years. Every race counts in this context."

London 2012 Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli (TUN): "I would like to thank FINA and the QSA for the opportunity. It is cool to come back to a familiar venue here in Doha. A lot of swimmers have entered this event from all over the world so I am excited. It is also a stepping stone for my qualification, hopefully my 6th Olympics and I couldn’t hope for a better stage to prepare. Thanks again for having me!"

The Qatar Swimming Association has been hosting this event since 2018 and has acquired valuable experience which will come crucial when preparing to organise the FINA World Championships 2023 in Doha.

The 2021 calendar of the FINA Marathon Swim World Series unfolds as follows:

  1. March 13, Doha (QAT)
  2. May 9, Seychelles (SEY)
  3. June 12, Budapest (HUN)
  4. June 19, Setubal (POR)
  5. July 25, Lac St-Jean (CAN)
  6. August 7, Lac Mégantic (CAN)
  7. August 28, Ohrid (MKD)
  8. September 11, Nantou (TPE)
  9. tbc, Chun’an (CHN)
  10. October 17, Hong Kong (HKG)

Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary and Rachele Bruni of Italy were the overall leaders of the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series 2019 with 4750 points and 5000 points respectively, while the 2020 edition was interrupted due to the pandemic.

The races will be live broadcast on FINAtv and a news report will be published on FINA website on Saturday evening. Photos and videos will be shared on FINA social media. LIVE RESULTS HERE.