Inaugural swimming Super Series draws Chinese stars
PERTH, Australia (AFP) – Teenage Chinese Olympic sensation Ye Shiwen headlines the field for the inaugural Super Series, billed as the world’s richest swim meet, which starts Friday in Perth.
The dual Olympic gold medallist is part of a powerful Chinese team facing on Australia and South Africa in the unique tri-nation event, with $500,000 in prize money paid by a wealthy mining corporation for both individual and relay events over two days.
The 16-year-old won Olympic gold medals in the 400 metres and 200 metres individual medley at London 2012, setting an astonishing world record in the 400m event and an Olympic record in the 200m.
London 200m butterfly champion Jiao Liuyang and 2008 gold medallist Liu Zige will also be competing in the Super Series as China seek to continue their emergence as a swimming power to rival the United States.
The Chinese claimed five gold medals in London, second only to the USA, and their Super Series team includes four current world record holders.
Host nation Australia will be looking to reclaim some of the ground lost in London, where their reputation as one of the strongest swimming nations took a battering. They won just a single gold, in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
Much of the attention for the Australians will centre on James Magnussen, the high-profile sprint freestyler nicknamed “The Missile”.
As the reigning world champion, Magnussen was the favourite for the 100m freestyle heading into the London Olympics, but finished second to American Nathan Adrian by a hundredth of a second and failed to reach the final of the 50m freestyle.
One of the highlights of the Super Series in the Swan River capital of Western Australia will be the clash between Ye and Australian Alicia Coutts, who claimed the silver medal in the 200m individual medley in London.
The South African team suffered a blow when Chad le Clos, who achieved worldwide recognition after beating United States Olympic legend Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly in London, withdrew with a shoulder injury.