In June of 1996, while swimming on the Mare Nostrum tour in France, Claudia Poll, said, "It probably sounds weird, but for me it's almost as if the Olympics are already over. We have so many things planned for the coming years!"
First on this year's agenda was the FINA Swimming World Cup, and Poll competed brilliantly in Hong Kong, Beijing, Imperia and Paristwo more meets than last year. She was also one of the few to tackle two World Cup categoriesSprint and Distance Freestylewhere she placed second and first respectively to pocket $11,000 in prize money.
"I think for me it was even more fun this year," said Poll. "It was my first time in Asia and it was very different from Europe. It is a challenge to be able to adapt to each different competition (situation)."
Francisco Rivas, Poll's coach of 18 years, said in Beijing that the FINA Swimming World Cup was playing a major role in their program for 1997. "The idea is to get Claudia back into competition again," said Rivas, "After winning the gold in Atlanta (in the 200 freestyle), she swam very easy for 4 1/2 months. At the moment she has good resistance but she needs to practise racing and work on her speed." He was confident that Poll's performances would improve throughout the World Cup meets in Beijing, Imperia, and Paris, and added, "We prefer to concentrate on short course swimming this year and the World Cup will serve as a build-up to the short course worlds in Sweden in April."
For her part, Poll was pleased with her swims and numerous personal bests in Asia and in Europe. "I've been training more for the 400 and 800, so it was a real surprise to swim so well in the 100 (54.56 in Paris). I like having to change pace with so little rest. Between the 100 and the 400 freestyle I just stayed in the warm-up pool. I didn't stop swimming!"
"Claudia is very happy in the pool and she enjoys that competition environment," added Rivas. "That's why we're here."