The selection process for the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia starts this Sunday, with seven British swimmers taking part in the Swim the Swan 10km race in Perth, Australia. The race is part of the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series.
The GB squad comprises Jack Burnell, Tom Allen, Alice Dearing, Dan Fogg, Caleb Hughes, Danielle Huskisson and Keri-anne Payne. It is the beginning of a year focused on qualification for Rio 2016.
For Payne, the start of the season follows a break from competitive racing in 2014. In an interview in the current issue of H2Open magazine, Payne says: “This is Olympic qualification season so all my focus is on getting in the top 10 at the World Championships in Russia in the summer.”
The race in the Swan River in the centre of Perth is open to elite and amateur swimmers, but the British squad will face some tough competition: USA Swimming are fielding a team at the event for the first time. The full US line-up is Andrew Gemmell, Haley Anderson, Alex Meyer, Eva Fabian, Christine Jennings, Becca Mann and Sean Ryan.
Bernie Dietzig, British Swimming open water lead, says: “This race is the first part of the selection for the World Championships in Kazan so I would expect our swimmers to be up there rising to the challenge.”
Stage two of the selection process will take place at the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup leg in Cancun, Mexico in May.
The 2015 FINA World Cup has proven controversial before it has even got under way. Since allegations of systematic doping were leveled at Russian sporting authorities by a German documentary, some quarters of the swimming world have questioned the suitability of the country to host the World Championships. Several prominent voices of the swimming world have voiced their concern and demanded FINA rescind its award. And the decision by FINA to hold a World Cup race in the United Arab Emirates, following the death of Fran Crippen in 2010 from drowning and heat exhaustion at a FINA World Cup race in Fujairah, has led to a boycott by USA Swimming of the still unconfirmed event in March.