Germans set to dominate Cup
By NORIDEEN KITCHELL
GERMAN swimmers are expected to dominate the lacklustre Epson World Cup short course meeting starting today at Kowloon Park in which the world swimming giants - China, Russia, Australia and the United States - are all absent.
The Chinese have shunned the event in the wake of their Asian Games doping scandal while the Russians, Australians and Americans cited that the Hong Kong meeting clashes with their training programmes.
Seventy-plus swimmers from 15 overseas countries and Hong Kong have entered for the two-day meeting with Germany fielding the largest overseas group of 15 swimmers.
But the atmosphere is a lot quieter than last year when the event was held in Hong Kong for the first time, probably because the highly-popular Chinese swimmers are not here.
Ticket sales have been going very slowly and up until yesterday less than 100 tickets had been sold.
But Johnny Li Khai-kham, chief executive of the event, said: 'There's no doubt the Chinese are a big drawcard but we expected ticket sales to be slow because the meeting is being held during the week.
'But I'm sure the standard of this championship will not be lower than that of last year because we still have a very strong field of European swimmers.' Germany are led by 200 metres freestyle world record holder Franziska van Almsick, the favourite to win the 100m, 200m, and 400m freestyle events.
The Germans also have in their men's squad three members of the medley relay team, Silko Gunzel, Jirka Letzin and Mark Warnecke, who set a world record at the European Sprint Championships last month.
But the French, represented by only men's medley ace Xavier Marchand and women butterfly stroke specialist Cecile Jeanson, are quietly confident they will have their moments.
Denmark's Mette Jacobsen is another leading contender in the women's butterfly events, while lone Belgian entry Brigitte Becus is expected to be the one to beat in the women's breaststroke races.
Hong Kong have entered a 19-strong squad of nine men and 10 women swimmers but none of them are expected to be challenging for medals.