Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee

With one month to go untill the 2019 FINA World Championships, one might call the fourth leg of the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series at Balatonfured a dress rehearsal for the big event as a truly star-studded field will line up for the start on Saturday. Olympic, World champions and medallists will highlight the show which might draw thousands of spectators on site as half of Hungary are set to head to Lake Balaton this weekend since a tough heat wave has hit the country.

Temperatures have already been soaring to 33-34C in mid-week but the hottest day is going to be the competition day here on Saturday June 15 when thermometers might show 36-37C, though that’s foreseen only after the conclusion of the morning races.

As Istvan Boka, Mayor of Balatonfured admitted at the opening press conference at the lakeside, during the unusually cold weeks in late May and early June they were afraid of way too low water-temperatures.

“But the weather solved our problems, the water will offer perfect conditions by Saturday, the experts predict 25-26 degrees, I think the swimmers will love it.”

“Agreed, the weather and the water cannot be any better” said home hero Kristof Rasovszky who hit the headlines last August by capturing two gold and a silver at the European Championships, an unprecedented feat (to claim three medals in all three individual events at the same edition). However, the ‘Balaton Shark’, as he loves to nickname himself, is yet to show his best in home waters. And for him it’s really home soil as he is the top competitor of the Balaton Swim Club and trains by (sometimes in) the lake. 

A scene from the press conference (from left: presenter Bence Farkas, OC Head David Szanto, Hungary's Anna Olasz, Mayor Istvan Boka, Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky, Netherlands' Ferry Weertman and USA's Haley Anderson)

“We decided to skip Setubal this summer despite me being the title-holder there” Rasovszky said. “I wanted to be in the best shape as finally I wish to claim a medal at the home edition of the World Series. My best result so far was a 5th place in Balaton, I want to make the podium this time. We had a fine training camp and I’m feeling I’m ready for the challenge.”

Last year Rasovszky was infected by a stomach virus in Setubal, most probably during the race – he was not the only one –, a week later he didn’t have the power to keep up with the others. This season he bettered all his previous results as he kicked off the series with a silver in Doha and added a bronze in Seychelles.

His true friend and greatest rival Ferry Weertman was all smiles as usual.

“We always stage great battles with Kristof and just like last year in Glasgow at the Europeans I’m expected for another thrilling finish here too.”

The Dutch Olympic champion praised Balatonfured, also site of the open water events at the 2017 FINA World Championships where Weertman came first in the 10km.

“This is one of the best venues in the World Series and this is an excellent test for all of us before the World Championships as the field it quite strong just like in every other year.”

This was also echoed by another World champion from 2017, 5km winner US great Haley Anderson.

“I’m pretty excited every time we race here in Balatonfured as the atmosphere is brilliant and the environment is superb. This is the last great test before the Worlds so I can measure my preparations and shape the best tactics for Gwangju.”

Anderson, an Olympic silver medallist in 2012, also talked about the proper timing of the event: “Mid-June usually fits for everyone’s calendar, add the beauty of the city and you will understand why we are keen to race here every year.”

The Mayor added that Balatonfured had played host open water events since 2010, “so the name of the city and open water swimming has been eternally paired. This is a city in love of all sports but open water meets are definitely the highlights of all” he said. 

Head of the organising committee, David Szanto said that more than a hundred swimmers representing 30 nations would line up at the start.

This is going to be a record participation in the history of this event but not only the quantity but the quality of the field is also very high.”

Szanto also shared that the next big event in Hungary, the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest in August should also see record participation with 106 countries having submitted their respective entries already.

“The FINA Family seems to love not only Balatonfured but the Duna Arena as well” he added.

The 10km races on Saturday will kick off at 9.30 (women’s start is at 9.40) and you can follow the grand battles live on FINAtv.