Top German long-distance swimmer Thomas Lurz will head a strong cast of overseas swimmers in the international segment of the New World Cross Harbour race on October 6, as organisers pump in money for the first time in a bid to make the event more attractive.
Lurz, winner of three medals at the recent Fina World Championships in Barcelona, will be among a number of Olympic and World Championship medal winners at the Hong Kong showpiece, which this year will include prize money of US$15,000 for the international race.
"Thomas Lurz is confirmed to take part and I know there will be a number of other top Olympic and world champions taking part," said Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association (HKASA).
Lurz, 33, won gold in 25km and 5km team events at the worlds, and silver and bronze in the individual 10km and 5km. He won bronze at the Beijing Olympics in the 10km open water.
"What we have done this year is to tag the Cross Harbour race behind our annual World Cup open-water event and this hopefully will see most of the international swimmers staying on to take part in Victoria Harbour the next day," Wong said.
The Hong Kong leg of the Fina 10-kilometre Marathon Swimming World Cup will take place on October 5 at Repulse Bay.
The HKASA will pay accommodation costs for swimmers to stay on and take part in the Cross Harbour race, which is being held for the third year since it was revived in 2011.
"Last year, too, we had an international race, but this time we believe it will be bigger and better. We have introduced prize money for both men and women, and top swimmers from all over the world will take part. We think at least 20 countries will be represented, mainly all those swimmers taking part in the World Cup," Wong said.
"I was in Barcelona for the World Championships and spoke to many swimmers who said they were all keen to take part in the Cross Harbour race," Wong added.
With Hong Kong the final leg of the World Cup, there will be an added incentive for overseas swimmers wishing to push themselves into reckoning for the grand prizes in the series.
The cross harbour race will be split into two categories with 500 competitive swimmers - 100 in the international race - and 1,500 recreational. Organisers have cut the distance from 1.8km to 1.5km; the start (Lei Yue Mun) and finish (Quarry Bay) remain the same, but a turn which created a bottleneck last year has been removed.