Swim stars to make Singapore splash

French Olympian Florent Manaudou (left) and Lithuanian starlet Ruta Meilutyte are among the first confirmed for the Singapore meet.

SINGAPORE - The first major swimming event to be held at the brand new Singapore Sports Hub will be a showdown of Olympic proportions.

A star-studded line-up of Olympic and world champions are set to compete in the Singapore Swim Stars, a three-day festival at the OCBC Aquatic Centre in September.

The event will pit the likes of freestylists James Magnussen, the Australian world champion, against Florent Manaudou, France's Olympic champion.

It will also feature Lithuanian teen sensation Ruta Meilutyte, an Olympic champion and world record holder in the 50m and 100m breaststroke.

Harald Eltvedt, one of the event organisers, told The Straits Times ahead of a formal announcement expected today that the plan is for the Singapore Swim Stars to be "the most prestigious event outside of the Olympics and the world championships".

"It's not going to be a one-off event," added the Frenchman, a former swimmer. "The Singapore Sports Council wants us to at least commit for five years. We have a more prestigious line-up than the World Cup."

Singapore hosts one leg of the Fina World Cup, a short-course meet that, last year, featured South Africa's Chad le Clos.

Other top-notch swimmers who have confirmed their participation so far include the podium finishers in the 50m butterfly event at last year's world championships: Cesar Cielo of Brazil, American Eugene Godsoe and France's Frederick Bousquet.

World champions such as Denmark's Jeanette Ottesen (50m fly), Hungary's Katinka Hosszu (200m and 400m individual medley) and Australia's Christian Sprenger (100m breaststroke) have also been pencilled in.

Singapore's swimmers are expected to be invited to compete in the events.

Apart from the duels in the pool, the festival will also include an open water challenge, a Kids and Stars relay, as well as swim clinics conducted by the stars.

There will also be a synchronised swimming show featuring the world's top teams like Russia and China.

Said Gary Tan, a former national swimmer who now coaches the likes of Quah Zheng Wen: "It's great to bring in marquee swimmers but it's a good thing to have a bit of local flair too to help the event resonate with the Singapore community.

"It gives our swimmers a bit of a boost and makes it a bit more inspirational for them."

Tickets to the event are expected to go on sale in May.

maychen@sph.com.sg

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