Money meets a boost but gold in big events still the aim

Vladimir Morozov speaking at a press conference which took place ahead of Fina Swimming World Cup Singapore where fans get a meet-and-greet session at Kallang Wave Mall on Aug 14, 2019.
Vladimir Morozov speaking at a press conference which took place ahead of Fina Swimming World Cup Singapore where fans get a meet-and-greet session at Kallang Wave Mall on Aug 14, 2019.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

The top swimmer in the 2018 Fina World Cup series, Vladimir Morozov, banked in US$332,400 (S$461,500), a pittance compared to the US$12.6 million that tennis' top earner Novak Djokovic won in prize money last year.

Swimmers have often lamented the lack of big purses that professional tennis and golf offer, but a host of lucrative new meets could prove to be the "turning point".

World governing body Fina in December announced its richest competition yet, the US$3.9 million Champions Swim Series. It comprises three invitation-only meets, which started in April.

It was seen as a response to the International Swimming League (ISL), which has a US$20 million first-year budget and will offer US$6-7 million in appearance and prize money. It starts in October and will travel to seven cities in the United States and Europe this year.

Morozov said the ISL is "long overdue". "Baseball had that... (ice) hockey, tennis, they all have the league. I really hope that it works out," said the 27-year-old, who is in town for the Fina Swimming World Cup Singapore.

The World Cup awards prize money for individual races (US$1,500 for a gold) and series points at each meet. Bonuses are given for how well an athlete finishes in points within a cluster, and overall in the series.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Katinka Hosszu, the first swimmer to earn US$1 million in prize money, called the new meets a golden opportunity to professionalise the sport.

She said: "We are able to show ourselves a lot more than before. It's definitely a turning point but it's going to take a lot of time to actually make a big change."

Australian freestyle sprint specialist Cate Campbell, 27, believes that more opportunities to make a living will help keep swimmers going.

  • US$20m

  • Budget in the first year of the International Swimming League, a seven-city circuit in the US and Europe which offers US$6-7 million in appearance and prize money.

"We want to encourage young people to take up the sport of swimming and see that there is a future and that they can earn a living, that they can have these opportunities that other sports offer," added Campbell, who won two Olympic golds in the 4x100m freestyle.

"We're ushering in a new age of swimming and, hopefully, it'll encourage more people to stick around in the sport."

While the competition calendar has expanded with the new meets, the swimmers are keeping focused on performing when it counts, which is at the Olympics and world championships.

Campbell said that her focus is also to taper her training for the two other major events, the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific championships.

She added: "How I plan to use all these extra competitions is to get good race practice... I'm actually going to incorporate this into my training, I'll be using this to make sure that I can peak and be at my best for a world championships or an Olympics."

For Hosszu, who has been competing in smaller meets in Europe during the season as part of her training, the Olympics is the ultimate goal.

"For us Hungarians, the Olympics is the biggest prize money there is, so I'm peaking there," said the nine-time long-course world champion.

Morozov welcomed more racing chances as it is "the best training you can get", though he added that some of the events are less competitive as not all the best swimmers choose to compete at the same meets.

The Singapore leg of the Fina World Cup, to be held at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from today to Saturday, will also feature Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, Quah Ting Wen and Amanda Lim, among others.

Nicole Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2019, with the headline 'Money meets a boost but gold in big events still the aim'. Print Edition | Subscribe