Hosszu up in arms over rule changes

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu propels herself underwater at a training session in Budapest, Hungary.
Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu propels herself underwater at a training session in Budapest, Hungary.PHOTO: REUTERS

Triple Olympic champion is calling on fellow swimmers to make a stand against Fina

BUDAPEST • Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, a triple Olympic champion at the Rio Games last year and a perennial force on professional circuits, urged fellow swimmers to demand a bigger share from the sport's proceeds yesterday.

Hosszu spoke up after the international water sports body Fina recently introduced new restrictions to the annual World Cup series.

One of the sport's biggest stars, she has honed her brand for years and cashed in on the professional circuit, raking in dozens of golds and prize money north of US$300,000 (S$417,000) in each of the past three seasons.

Her dominance has been so strong that swimming insiders saw the rule changes - limiting each swimmer to a maximum number of four individual events per World Cup stop - as directed at her.

The nine-leg series begins in Moscow on Aug 2 and concludes in Singapore on Nov 19, with over US$2 million up for grabs.

"The World Cup has huge potential, but the planned new rule changes are destructive and hypocritical," Hosszu, the series' top female swimmer overall last year, wrote on her Facebook page.

"These rules are risking the future of our sport."

In last year's final stop in Hong Kong, she won 10 golds, equalling a record she set in 2014.

FOREWARNING

We must learn from the (1973) boycott of Wimbledon... Even the biggest, most prestigious event is worthless without the best athletes.

KATINKA HOSSZU, Hungarian swimmer, wants her peers to support her stance.

Last year, gold, silver and bronze medallists earned US$1,500, US$1,000, and US$500 respectively.

Each race will see an increase in prize money this year, with the top six swimmers sharing US$3,900.

Hosszu said individuals' dominance was a fact of life in pro sports and should not be artificially weakened, noting this did not happen in professional basketball or tennis.

"Will the NBA (National Basketball Association) limit one of its biggest stars, (Cleveland Cavaliers forward) LeBron James, in his eighth participation in the (NBA) Finals next year?

"Will the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) try to remind (Rafael) Nadal and (Roger) Federer that their time is over?"

She recalled the 1973 boycott by professional tennis players who walked out of Wimbledon in protest after Yugoslavia's Nikola Pilic was not allowed to enter the contest because of a ban by his national association.

Without calling for a boycott directly, she said: "We must learn from the boycott of Wimbledon... We have to stand up for what we believe in... Even the biggest, most prestigious event is worthless without the best athletes."

Fina declined comment yesterday.

Swim Vortex, a major swimming magazine, dismissed Hosszu's criticisms as self-serving.

"(They) are working on a new model for the future of swimming in consultation with athletes, coaches, officials, media and others," it said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Hosszu up in arms over rule changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe