By Ian Hanson
More than 200 swimmers from over 20 countries will converge on Melbourne for the three day Telstra World Cup meet, December 5-7, including teams from Australia, USA, Germany, Italy, Brazil, China, Great Britain, Sweden, Canada and France and they will race for $156,000 in prizemoney.
Already 13 members of Australia's Olympic team, including Michael Klim, Grant Hackett, Leisel Jones and Matt Welsh have indicated they will contest the event.
Organizers are anxiously awaiting a response from US star Neil Walker, the current short course world record holder in the 50 and 100 meter backstroke, who has been invited to attend the meet.
Walker would go head-to-head with Welsh over the three backstroke events. Welsh broke the 200m backstroke world record during the Telstra Australian Short Course Championships in October.
The $156K in prize money offered by Australian Swimming is in addition to the FINA prize money that is offered as part of the overall 2000 – 2001 FINA World Cup Series.
The Melbourne World Cup Prize money categories are below:
Category 1 – Individual Event Prize Money
$4000 is offered per event
1st Place $2000
2nd Place $1000
3rd Place $ 750
4th Place $ 250
Total prize money on individual events $136,000 ($4000 per event).
Category 2 – Highest Point Performance Categories
Within the following categories, $5,000 will be awarded to the swimmer who achieves the greatest number of points for an individual swim according to the Point Performance Rating system as endorsed by FINA.
Category 1 – 50 meter swims
Category 2 – 100 meter swims
Category 3 – 200 meter swims
Category 4 – 400/800/1500 meter swim
If a tie occurs between two or more swimmers in any category, the $5,000 prize will be distributed equally.
All swimmers regardless of sex, stroke or distance will contest each respective category equally. The Point Performance Rating table being used for the Melbourne World Cup event will be that which is published in the FINA Short Course World Swimming Annual, "Short Course Performance Ratings 2000."
A minimum standard of 925 points applies to all categories. That is, any swimmer wishing to claim Point Performance prize money must achieve 925 points or more to be eligible.
The USA contingent for the Melbourne World Cup will be spearheaded by Olympic gold medalist, backstroker B.J. Bedford, who led the Stars and Stripes to a gold medal and a world record in the 4x100m medley relay at this year's Olympics in Sydney.
Bedford, who was also a finalist in the women's 100m backstroke will contest the 50, 100 and 200 meter backstroke and 50 and 100 meter freestyle events in the World Cup.
She will be joined by 1998 50m freestyle world champion Bill Pilczuk, World Student Games gold medal winning breaststroker Amy Balcerzak, and veteran individual medley swimmer and breaststroker Kristine Quance.
Bedford's clash with Australia's Dyana Calub, another Olympic finalist and silver medalist in the 4x100m medley in Sydney, will be one of the major features of the womens events at this year's World Cup meet.
Pilczuk missed the Olympic team after being over- powered by Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin at the US Olympic Trials, but is still regarded as one of the world's premier sprinters and his clash with Australia's fastest 50m man, Brett Hawke will be a highlight of the men's 50m freestyle events.
Another American attending the Melbourne meet will be butterflyer Bryan Jones, who will line up against Australia's own Olympic silver medalist in the 100 metres butterfly and double gold relay swimmer, Michael Klim.
The women's breaststroke events will bring together Australia's Leisel Jones and Brooke Hanson, up against Balcerzak and China's Wei Li and Xuejuan Lou. Jones won two silver medals at the 2000 Olympics in the 100m breaststroke and as a member of the Australian 4x100m medley relay and, at 15, is still new to short course racing. Her Dolphins teammate, Hanson, won the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke treble at the Australian Championships while Balcerzak defeated both US Olympian Amanda Beard and Hanson to win the 100m at last year's World University Games in Majorca.
The two Chinese girls are highly ranked in the world with Wei Li having clocked both 31.45 and 1:07.99 respectively for 50 and 100 meter breaststroke and Xuejuan having swum 2:24.89 in the 200m.