The 14th FINA World Championships get underway in Shanghai on July 16, with pool racing from July 24-31. Our daily round-up of snippets on the way to the big showdown:
South Korea: Park Tae-hwan, coached by Michael Bohl in Australia, has declared his big target to be a place in the world-record books. "My first goal was to win an Olympic medal and I've already achieved it. Now, I'm aiming to set a new world record," the Olympic 400m free champion told Korean media. His biggest chance looks to be in the 400m freestyle. Ian Thorpe's 3:40.08 is the best-ever by a swimmer in a textile suit, while Paul Biedermann went 0.01sec faster while wearing a non-textile suit in Rome. The closest any swimmers have come to those times in textile unfolded in 2010, when Park clocked 3:41.53, and 2011, Sun Yang (CHN) on 3:41.48 back in April.
Japan: Kosuke Kitajima had nodded to the Olympic incentive in the mix as he races in Shanghai at the end of the month, telling Japanese reporters: "I will target the gold medal at the world championships so that I will automatically qualify for the Olympics. I don't think about anything else." Any Japanese swimmers who takes home gold from Shanghai will also carry a ticket to London 2012 in their kit bags. Kitajima's mission is extraordinary: winner of the 100m and 200m breaststroke in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, he would take to his blocks in pursuit of becoming the first man to win the same crown in the race pool at three Games before Michael Phelps (USA) may get his chance to join a club that so far has been the exclusive domain of Dawn Fraser and Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN).
Australia: head coach Leigh Nugent is looking to put the relative doldrums of Rome 2009 behind the Dolphins at the first post-poly suit world titles in Shanghai from July 24. Back in 2009, Australians took three golds in the race pool and finished fourth on the medals table, a far cry from the 13 golds among 23 medals that placed the Dolphins ahead of the USA at the 2001 titles in Fukuoka. Of course, the word relative is most relevant: Australia fell just 6 medals shy of the US overall, with 9 of their 16 podium visits resulting in bronze, a result that would surely have been considered as a roaring success for all nations barring the US. "We won four (including Melissa Gorman in open water) in Rome in 2009 which was a disappointing performance, and we certainly want to exceed that total (in Shanghai)," Nugent told reporters Down Under. "If you look beyond the world championships it's trying to position as many of our swimmers as we can in the top five in the world and particularly in the top eight at this competition. We know from our stats that if you're in the top eight you are highly likely to make a final but also get a podium finish if you're in the top five one year out [from the London 2012 Olympic Games]." Defending champions in Rome are Brenton Rickard (100m breaststroke), Jessicah Schipper (200m butterfly) and Marieke Guehrer (50m butterfly). Nugent said he had taken a peek at the world rankings and concluded: "…we're certainly positioned much better this year as we were the same time last year. Our women are still the strength of our team and the men are certainly making some gains."
Australia: There were no world championships in his day but Percy Oliver was among the very best swimmers in the world. WA’s oldest Olympian, Oliver passed away this week aged 92. He represented Australia at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, finishing 7th in the 100m backstroke, took the 100y backstroke crown at the 1938 British Empire (later Commonwealth) Games and won 13 Australian freestyle and backstroke titles. He is survived by his daughters Brenda and Anita and five grandchildren.
China: world-titles hosts China finished third on the medals table at Rome 2009 behind the USA, on 10 gold from 22 medals, and Germany, with four gold medals, to Paul Biedermann and Britta Steffen, from 9 medals overall. China took 10 medals, including four gold. This time round, Sun Yang, Asian Games 1500m freestyle winner, tops the list of golden favourites, his chances extending from 400m through 800m to the 30-lapper in which he looks like a man capable of taking down Grant Hackett's 14:34.45 world mark from 2001. Sun is coached by Denis Cotterell, mentor to Hackett, Australia's distance king from 1997 to 2006. China also looks to 200m butterfly Olympic champion Liu Zige and 50m backstroke world champion Zhao Jing as two others capable of reaching the top of the podium, while 4x200m free and 4x100m medley relays among women arrive in Shanghai favourites to keep the crowns. "The Shanghai worlds is the biggest competition before the 2012 London Games, so it's a good chance to get the swimmers ready," head coach Yao Zhengjie told the Chinese media. "We will try to win three to four gold medals in Shanghai. Sun will be expected to win one or two, hopefully in the men's 800m and 1,500m freestyles."
Brazil: to avoid the media scrum, Cesar Cielo and his coach and head coach Alberto Pinto, left Brazil a day earlier than the rest of the team on the way to a holding camp in Macau. Cielo is one of four swimmers awaiting news from the Court of Arbitration for Sport over a warning issued by Brazil after the swimmers tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic, in May. A suspension of up to two years is available under WADA rules. The Confederação Brasileira de Desportos Aquáticos (CBDA) confirmed to journalists that the sprinter had asked for a switch of travel plans last Sunday. However, O Globo reports that no-one bother to tell Dr to the main Macau-bound delegation Marcos Bernhoeft, who was tasked with handing out the air tickets to athletes.
Norway: Alex Dale Oen limbered up for action in Shanghai with efforts of 27.56, 59.98 and 2:12.76 over 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke at a home meet.
Portugal: the president of the Portuguese swim federation (FPN), Paulo Frischknecht, has given his squad a clear incentive to excel in Shanghai: by making the world titles the first selection event for the Lopndon 2012 Olympic Games. A team of eight swimmers left for staging camp in Macau yesterday, with Frischknecht noting that all those capable of getting inside the London 2012 cut will be good enough to get at least as far as semi-finals in Shanghai.
Spain: World s/c champion Erika Villaécija has set her priority in Shanghai as the 800m freestyle in the pool - and she believes a podium place is in her grasp - though she will battle for honours just as hard over 10km in open water and the 1500m in the pool. The Catalan swimmer told Spanish media that her order of priority is: 800m free, 10km open water, then the 1500m free … though there's not much between them. The world s/c 800m title holder explained: "The 800m is my main event, it is the Olympic event, it is my event."