Olympic champions Ferry Weertman and Sharon van Rouwendaal welcomed the return to serious competition as they looked forward to the FINA/HOSA 10km Marathon Swim World Cup in Abu Dhabi (UAE), taking place on March 11, 2017.
The pair claimed a double victory for the Netherlands when they won their respective 10km races off the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro a little under seven months ago.
Now they are returning to world-class competition and they were joined at the launch of the event by Italian Rachele Bruni, silver medallist in the women’s race behind Van Rouwendaal, and Great Britain’s Jack Burnell, who suffered a heart-breaking disqualification in Brazil.
Weertman, also the current world silver medallist, then took eight weeks off during which he went travelling in Italy as well as moving in with his girlfriend before returning to the water in what he described as “fun races” – the King and Queen of the Water back in Rio and the Midmar Mile in South Africa.
“But now it is back to the real work and this is the first 10km after Rio so it will be exciting,” he said.
The 24-year-old also welcomed the large number of swimmers who will compete in the sea by the Emirates Palace, with 72 men scheduled to race compared to 26 in Rio. Weertman feels it is good preparation for the 2017 World Championships which will be held this summer in Budapest.
“I am happy with it,” he said. “I can compare it more with the world championships, it makes it a really good test for the worlds, I am pretty excited to be here.”
Burnell considered quitting after Rio, so shattered was he by his disqualification which came about following two yellow cards. The Briton, who was fifth at the 2015 World Championships, decided to continue after taking time off and wants to see his hard work rewarded.
He echoed Weertman’s welcome of the large numbers, praising the safety aspect he has experienced before at this event.
“When you have a larger field like that you haven’t got everyone at the same standard so there is not going to be 75 swimmers all up at the front fighting for first – there are going to be people drop off.
“I think as long as it is monitored well and there is enough safety which the last couple of years I have been here it has been unbelievable the organisation and the amount of safety boats has been nearly one to every two swimmers, it has been unbelievable.”
After taking five weeks off after Rio, Van Rouwendaal travelled in Spain, Brazil and France before competing at the World Cup in Hong Kong where she finished ninth. “That wasn’t really good so I have to do better here,” she said.
The 23-year-old also took part in the Abu Dhabi swimming festival in October and was happy to return to the emirate.
So too Bruni who said: “I am very happy to be here again. I really like Abu Dhabi and the race is always exciting.”