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Siobhan Haughey back to Olympic-sized ambitions as she leads Hong Kong at Mare Nostrum Tour

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 20/5/2022 Chan Kin-wa
  • Double Olympic medallist returns to long-course pool for first time since Tokyo Games in three-leg series, with Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom among her rivals
  • Hong Kong sends four swimmers to the series as they prepare for next month's World Championships in Budapest

Star swimmer Siobhan Haughey will be back in a long-course pool for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics when she leads Hong Kong's challenge in the Mare Nostrum Tour, which starts on Saturday.

Top Europeans will feature in the three-leg event, beginning with a two-day meet in Monaco before it continues with two days in Barcelona and wraps up in Canet-en-Roussillon in the south of France.

Haughey, who won two Olympic silver medals in Tokyo last summer, will be competing in the freestyle sprinting events over 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres, and faces a stiff test from the likes of Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, the world record holder over 50 and 100 metres.

Sjostrom leads a strong field for the 50 metres, for which Haughey is joined by Hong Kong teammate Camille Cheng Lily-mei. But the Swede has not entered the 100 and 200 metres, the two events in which Haughey reached the Tokyo podium, and the Hongkonger is the fastest entrant on paper.

Siobhan Haughey collects her 100 metres freestyle medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: EPA-EFE © Provided by South China Morning Post Siobhan Haughey collects her 100 metres freestyle medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: EPA-EFE

For most of the Hong Kong swimmers, the priority in the Mediterranean series is to get their competition sharpness back in preparation for the World Championships in Budapest between June 18 and July 3. Opportunities to compete have been limited for some of them, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It has been a long time since Haughey competed in long course, which is far from ideal for her to prepare for the World Championships," said swimming head coach Chen Jianhong.

"The Mare Nostrum tour has a long tradition and will be a good opportunity - she can use it as a warm-up for the worlds. We won't set any target for the series, but of course Haughey is at a very high standard and can always produce good results."

After the Olympics, Haughey won two gold medals in the short-course World Championships in Abu Dhabi in December, winning the 100 metres and 200 metres freestyle and setting a world record time of one minute 50.31 seconds in the final of the latter - beating Sjostrom in the 100 metres.

The World Championships is the biggest event of the year, especially after the postponement of this year's Asian Games in Hangzhou. Haughey has never won a medal at the long-course worlds, with her best result being fourth place in the 200 metres freestyle in South Korea in 2019.

Also competing in the Mare Nostrum Tour will be two men's swimmers, both Hong Kong record holders. Ian Ho Yentou - Hong Kong's sole male swimmer at the Tokyo Olympics - will be joined in the 50 metres and 100 metres freestyle by Adam Chillingworth, who set his 200 metres breaststroke best in last year's British selection trials.

Haughey and Chillingworth will go to Dubai after the Mediterranean tour to prepare for the World Championships, while Ho will return to training in the United States, where he swims at Virginia Tech.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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