Last November, the world’s best swimmers headed to the Hamdan Sports Complex for the final leg of the 2015 FINA Swimming World Cup. Will Jones investigates how the heroes from Dubai fared in Brazil at the Olympics
For the fifth time in the last six years, last November Dubai welcomed the world’s leading swimmers for a leg of the FINA Swimming World Cup. Of the 20 swimmers who won events in Dubai, no fewer than 17 made it to the Olympic Games – but how did they get on in Rio?
Hungarian all-rounder Katinka Hosszú was one of the stars of the Dubai competition in both 2014 and 2015, winning an incredible 10 titles at the two meets and setting two world records in the process. After spending part of June training at the Hamdan Sports Complex, the 27-year-old continued her spectacular form in Brazil.
Watched by her family, Hosszú came away with four medals in her fourth Olympic Games: gold in the 100m backstroke and both the 200m and 400m individual medleys, plus silver in the 200m backstroke. In the process, she set a new Olympic record in the 200m individual medley and smashed the world record for the 400m by more than two seconds. “My family has never come to a championship meet [until Rio],” she smiled, “so I think maybe they chose the right one.”
Staying with the women’s competition, three-time Dubai winner Emily Seebohm picked up silver alongside her Australian teammates in the 4 x 100m medley relay. Japan’s Rie Kaneto only finished third in the 200m breaststroke in Dubai – but she took the Rio 2016 title in convincing fashion, winning her first Olympic gold.
None of the men who won in Dubai could match Hosszú’s amazing achievements in Rio, but several made it on to the podium. Two-time Dubai winner Mitch Larkin picked up silver in the 200m backstroke, beating Russia’s Evgeny Rylov by a fingertip. The Australian nearly grabbed a second medal in the 100m backstroke but missed out by an agonising three-hundreths of a second to bronze medallist David Plummer, another Dubai champion. Plummer and Larkin also won medals in the 4 x 100m medley relay, Larkin taking bronze behind Plummer’s gold medal-winning American team.
There were also silver medals in Rio for a number of other Dubai winners: London 2012 gold medallist Chad le Clos in both the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly, fellow South African Cameron van der Burgh in the 100m breaststroke, Jérémy Stravius of France in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay; and Great Britain’s James Guy in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and 4 x 100m medley relay.
But one of the most remarkable performances in the Olympic swimming competition came from a swimmer who didn’t make it to the top step of the podium in Dubai. At the Hamdan Sports Complex last November, Adam Peaty finished second to Cameron van der Burgh in both the 50m and 100m breaststroke, but the British swimmer took spectacular revenge in Rio. After breaking his own 100m breaststroke world record in the heats, Peaty then smashed it again in the final, which he won by an astonishing 1.56 seconds. A silver medal for Peaty in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay, the final event of the competition, was the icing on the cake.
The FINA Swimming World Cup returns to Dubai on October 4-5 2016