'Clean and beautiful' Hong Kong delights world's best open water swimmers
World's best open water swimmers delighted with Repulse Bay and the city itself as they prepare for today's final leg of World Cup
The world's top open water swimmers and the sport's governing body praised "clean and beautiful" Hong Kong on the eve of the Panasonic Fina Marathon World Cup at Repulse Bay today.
The event is the finale of the eight-leg World Cup series and will offer double points to the field of 83 - 66 from 20 overseas countries - taking part in the 10km race.
"The water is good, warm and clean, and I always like taking part in Hong Kong," said pre-race favourite Thomas Lurz, of Germany, a winner in 2010. "And to make it even more interesting, this time it is the finale so there is even more at stake,"
World series leader Lurz, silver medallist at the London Olympics (10km open water) and double gold medallist at the recent world championships in Barcelona, will be making his fifth appearance at Repulse Bay.
Fina executive director Cornel Marculescu was impressed with the Repulse Bay venue, saying: "I visited the race site this morning and the quality of the water is superb. It is a fantastic place to host the final leg of the series and we are thankful to all the support we have got from Hong Kong."
American Emily Brunemann, who is leading the standings in the women's series, said: "This is definitely my favourite leg in the calendar. The venue is beautiful and I just love this city. This is my fourth year in Hong Kong and I cannot wait to get back."
Fina vice-president Dennis Miller, who has attended races in Hong Kong since 2000, said the fact that a world-class field had turned up was testament to the quality of the Hong Kong event.
"This is one of the most competitive fields taking part and they are here not only because there is a lot at stake but also due to the fact that everyone likes Hong Kong. I think it will be an exciting race."
The race is the last of eight legs which included stopovers in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Israel, Canada and China. While leaders Lurz and Brunemann have a healthy gap over their rivals, they both know they cannot afford to take it easy, with a top-quality field packed with a number of medal winners at the world championships in Barcelona in August, as well as the Olympics, taking part.
"I know I have to only finish in the top seven to win the overall title, but I cannot relax as there is strong competition out there," said Lurz said. "Anyway my goal always is to win, and I won't be taking it easy although I will try to swim a risk-free race."
Brunemann said: "There are two girls capable of beating me to the overall title. If Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha wins and I finish out of the top six, or if Italy's Martina Grimaldi wins and I fail to come in the top seven, I miss out on winning the World Cup series.
"Winning this series is important to me. I missed out on qualifying for the recent world championships by just half a second and it would be nice to win this event. I won here in 2011 and I'm confident I can repeat," said the 27-year-old from Michigan.
Dr Ng Kin-sun, chairman of the organising committee, said credit should be given to the government for its support. "They have given us some funds, but more crucially have made available this public site for our use. I believe with more support, this race can get bigger next year," Ng said.