MELBOURNE – FINA and local organisers reinforced their commitment to delivering top-level sports events for athletes while honouring hosting communities during the opening press conference of the 16th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) 2022.
These world championships mark a return for FINA to Australia, as Melbourne hosted the country’s last international aquatics event in 2007 with the 12th FINA World Championships.
Acknowledging the community aspect that swimming plays in Australia, FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said, “It’s wonderful to be here in Australia after so many years. You help athletes from around the world come and compete here. This is the real meaning of sport – solidarity, unity, family.”
The FINA President Husain Al-Musallam noted that history is being written in Melbourne.
“For the first time, a FINA World Champion, Brent Rickard, is chairing the organisation of a world championship event in swimming,” the FINA President added. "I know that it was not easy for (the Melbourne organisers to host this event on short notice), but we had full confidence because of their history of how they manage and organise events such as the FINA World Championships."
Swimming Australia CEO Eugénie Buckley noted how the opportunity to host the world short course championships fit into a larger plan of hosting events to raise the profile, presence and participation of swimming in Australia.
“We recently launched a long-term strategic priority plan to raise the profile of swimming in Australia, leading into Brisbane 2032,” Buckley said. “We’re trying to leverage this 10-year runway to our home Olympics and Paralympics. It’s for this exact reason, we’re focused on bringing back international events, the rare opportunity for our Dolphins to compete at home.
“For us, hosting this event is the icing on the cake. We’re delighted to be welcoming the world back.”
Joined by FINA Executive Director Brent Nowicki and Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements, the athletes echoed the sentiments of the sports leaders.
“The team is absolutely buzzing,” said Australian Dolphin and five-time FINA World Champion Madison Wilson. “It makes me a bit emotional to think my family and friends will be up in the crowd cheering us on.”
“Sure, there’s a rivalry between me and Kyle,” Popovici said. “Kyle (Chalmers) holds the 100m free world record in short course events and I am the world record holder in long course.”
The eighteen-year-old from Bucharest played down his chances, saying, “It’s good coming here knowing I’m not the best, yet, in short course. Sometimes it's good knowing you’re not the actual favourite – and definitely not the crowd favourite. I’m okay with that – and I’m extremely pumped for this competition.”
Popovici added: “My goal is to qualify for the final. As we all know, once you have a lane, you have a chance.”
The last time King raced at the FINA World Swimming Championships was in Windsor, Canada in 2016 where she took home four gold medals in the breaststroke and relay events.
“I think we all know that I live for the rivalry,” the 25-year-old Indiana native said, noting she’s enjoying the current competitiveness of the women’s breaststroke field.
“It's been really cool to get behind the blocks and not know what's going to happen every race. That’s fun for me. I love to win, but I’m also in this sport to race.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be a dogfight, for sure. It’ll be interesting.”