PHOENIX, Arizona, November 19. SWIMMING World contacted Australia's Kenneth To recently to get his thoughts on competing in the FINA World Cup and collecting $120,500 in prize money. The 20-year-old is set to compete in the FINA short course world championships in Istanbul, where he's a medal contender in several events.
Swimming World: Before the World Cup started, what were your primary goals?
Kenneth To: Prior to first leg in Dubai, my goals for the World Cups were, as always, to swim fast. I had just come off the back of the Australian Short Course Championships, and knew I was in good form. For me, the primary goal was to go for PBs in the 100m IM, 100m butterfly, and 200m IM at each leg, as well as swim some extra events that would help me develop my race skills. Above all though, I really wanted to enjoy travelling on the Tour and to have fun while racing, which is different to a major meet as usually there's a lot of pressure and expectation to swim fast.
SW: How did your goals change as the series continued?
To: My series started much better than I expected. I posted winning times of 46.8 for the 100m free and 51.4 for 100m IM, both times which were significantly faster than my performances at Australian SC. I was very happy with how I had been racing and so with little training and long travel days in between meets my goal thereafter was just to maintain my standard of racing. I learned to race the people on tour the most effective way and to keep each race as consistent as the last. Towards the end of the tour it became more apparent I was a contender to become Men's Overall Champion so my goal changed to maintaining my lead on the point score, which meant I had to emphasise my performance in the 100m IM and dropping a few events here and there.
SW: What was the biggest challenge to competing in all eight meets?
To: With eight meets back-to-back, the biggest challenge was definitely the difficultly in preparing yourself race after race, and meet after meet to swim fast and without exception. I have never experienced so much racing in such a short time span and because the main competitors were the same in each event there was a constant benchmark required to medal, to win, or even just to qualify for the finals session. I had to physically block out any fatigue or soreness I had built up on tour and mentally believe I could swim faster than last time. And even if it didn't happen, I had to learn to prepare myself to have another shot in a few days.
SW: What was the most memorable city to visit?
To: I had been to most of the cities on previous world cup legs, but my favourite this year was Tokyo, Japan. I had never been to Japan before and had only heard good things about it so I was eager to go and experience the culture and sights there. It was a very clean and organised city, the people were very nice and as I was warned before – the morning heats were quick indeed! We also got to eat out a lot and try all different Japanese food, but since we were only there for four days, I really wanted to go out and do more. I'm planning to go back there in future for a holiday. Hopefully I won't be as busy then!
SW: What was your best race of the series?
To: In my opinion my best race was my final 100m IM in Singapore where I won in a 51.50, which is my second-fastest time in that event. I think it was my favourite not because of the time but because of what it meant to me. There was a lot of pressure to repeat my performance, as I was leader of the Overall Point Score and anything short of that could have been the difference between coming first and second. I was also just relieved to have done so well and for the Series to be finally over as it was one of my last important races.