Doha, 16 February 2020 - The Qatar Swimming Association (QSA) is ready to stage the season-opening FINA /CNSG Marathon Swim World Series Doha (QAT) 2020 to be held on Saturday at iconic Katara Beach, which will provide a stunning setting for elite athletes in the 10km races.
The QSA, which organized the last two meets of the series in Corniche waters, is confident that athletes will have an amazing experience competing at this world class venue, which successfully hosted Open Water events at the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games last year.
This year's FINA Marathon at Katara Beach will add to Qatar's vast experience in hosting multiple world-class FINA events, including eight FINA World Cups and the 2014 World Swimming Championships (25m), as it builds up to the 2023 FINA World Championships, the pinnacle event of the aquatics calendar.
At the pre-event press conference on Thursday at Katara Beach, QSA President Mr. Khaleel Al Jabir said arrangements have been completed for the first competition of 10-meet series.
“I would like to thank FINA for giving us opportunity to host event like this. We consider it as a test event as we prepare for the 2023 World Championships," said Mr. Al Jabir.
“I would also like to thank Katara for giving us this place. Katara has done a great job for us. We are ready to organize the event and I wish the best for all athletes in the competition," he added.
The QSA President was accompanied by FINA Technical Delegate Mr. John West, reigning world champion Florian Wellbrock (GER) and Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson (USA) at the press conference.
Mr. West praised Qatar's effort in promoting swimming in the region and predicted thrilling races on Saturday.
“This is a very strong year for us and we have very very strong field for this competition. Big teams from countries such as France are participating as we build up to Olympic qualifying competition. We have a large field for this event, 82 men and 54 women, and this competition is probably stronger in depth of the field than the Olympic Games," said Mr. West.
“We want to thank from FINA's perspective our colleagues in Qatar Olympic Committee and Qatar Swimming Association for their support and hosting this event on our behalf. Without their support and consideration we wouldn't be able to run this series. The work, which we have done so far with the organizing committee, is very good and we are looking forward to a very good competition on Saturday," he added.
The highly-anticipated Doha event has attracted all the leading long-distance swimmers, who are starting their final round of preparations for this year's Tokyo Olympic Games.
The men's race will see 2019 overall champion Kristóf Rasovszky (HUN) vying against top-ranked athletes like Olympic champion Ferry Weertman (NED), and Wellbrock (GER), who will be defending his Doha title.
“I won the race last here and I am very happy to be back here. Last year we had water temperature of around 20 degrees and this time we have 16 degrees or 17 degrees so it could be harder to defend the title," Wellbrock said at the press conference.
“Doha is a special venue for me because we can see buildings around the venue, we don't have something like that in Germany," he added.
Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA), Simone Ruffini (ITA), and veteran swimmer Igor Chervynskiy (UKR) are other top athletes to compete in men's race. Qatar will be represented by Abdelrahman Hesham Mohamed and Ahmad Tarek A K Samara.
In the grueling 10km women's race, 2019 overall champion Rachele Bruni (ITA) will be up against Rio Olympic gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) and defending Doha champion Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA).
Former European champion Arianna Bridi (ITA) will be the other main contender for women's crown besides other star athletes.
“We have a tough field in women's race but I am very excited to start the Olympic year in Qatar. Venue is different from last year but it looks really nice out there," said Anderson.
Action at the Katara Beach will begin on Friday when over 150 swimmers will take the plunge at Doha Open Water Challenge – a subsidiary event involving different categories – that takes place one day earlier from FINA Marathon, and features amateur swimmers of the host country.
There will be three categories available for the public in the Doha Open Challenge: 400m for boys and girls aged 11-14, 800m for boys and girls aged 15-17, and 1,200m for boys and girls aged 18 and over.
The races will start at 1pm after Friday prayers.