With the world short-course swimming championships taking place in Hangzhou, China, this week, athletes and officials continue to battle outside the pool, fighting over money.
In the latest development, the international swimming federation announced Thursday it will launch a new series of events for top competitors that will pay $3.9 million in total prizes.
“We strongly support this new concept, as the stars of our sport are always happy to have additional opportunities to shine,” said Penny Heyns, a member of the federation’s athlete committee.
Heyns added that “with this unprecedented level of prize money, our swimming stars will definitely be attracted to this circuit.”
The three-meet “FINA Champions Swim Series” comes in direct response to an antitrust lawsuit filed in a Northern California court by elite swimmers.
The plaintiffs are seeking to compete in a new circuit called the International Swimming League, which was set to begin later this month. FINA has refused to sanction the league and threatened to ban any athletes who take part in its events.
Like the fledgling league, FINA’s new series will have swimmers competing in a team format.
Invitations will be limited to Olympic and world champions, along with other top-ranked competitors. Swimmers will receive appearance fees and have their expenses covered.
“By creating this additional elite competition, FINA will generate a true swimming show, where sport presentation and stars’ promotion are key concepts for a succesful meet,” federation president Julio C. Maglione said in a statement.
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