Multiple World Record-holders with a host of Olympic and World Aquatics Championships medals amongst them headline the initial wave of athletes that will compete in Berlin (GER), Athens (GRE) and Budapest (HUN) over three-day weekends of racing in these iconic European cities.

With the World Aquatics Championships – Doha 2024 and Paris 2024 Olympic Games coming up, the 2023 edition of the Swimming World Cup moves back to the long course format with all competitions taking place in the 50m pool. World Aquatics changed this event format this year to allow athletes to chase World and Olympic Qualifying Times in their quest to compete in Doha and Paris.

Legends Le Clos, Milak and Peaty Help Headline the Men’s Field

Image Source: Chad Le Clos wears his 200m butterfly crown won on the 2022 Swimming World Cup (Mike Lewis/World Aquatics)

Champions Chad Le Clos (RSA), Kristof Milak (HUN), Adam Peaty (GBR), Thomas Ceccon (ITA), and Nic Fink (USA) take on defending the 2022 Swimming World Cup overall winner Dylan Carter (TTO), with the athletes racing for a total prize purse of USD 1.2 million, before factoring in for bonuses.

Last year, the men’s overall title came down to Carter and Fink, with just .3 points separating the Trinidadian and American.

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

“Last year was a perfect example of the mantra ‘Control what you can control,’” said Fink, a breaststroke specialist. “I think both Dylan and I were surprised to see our names on top of the podium and because we never raced head-to-head, it was about taking care of your own races and trying to perform the best you can every session.  I will continue to do that.”

Sprint specialist Carter sounds composed and confident to defend his overall Swimming World Cup title, saying “Being on Island Time keeps me relaxed in the stressful moments.

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

“I’m definitely hungry to take on some more 50s this year and maybe even throw a 100 in there,” the 27-year-old Trinidadian added. “I don’t think at all about defending the title. It’s long course this year so I look at it as a whole new challenge. I know there will be great competitors at all competitions so I hope they will push me to some fast results.”

Image Source: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For the Swimming World Cup’s all-time event winner Le Clos, this year’s series carries extra meaning.

“It meant the world to me to win my first race in a long time with such a great time 48,” Le Clos said while recalling his first final from the 2022 season. “I knew I was back because I had changed a lot of things in my life. I was done with losing and that’s when Chad 2.0 was born. 

“I was very proud of the way I carried my form through the world champs. Winning in Melbourne felt a little like winning Olympics because I had been written off by the swimming community.”

After a strong start to begin 2023 followed by a long illness, Le Clos looks to get back to his winning ways again at this year’s Swimming World Cup.

“These world cups are important for me to get the momentum back for next year February and of course July.”

Sweden’s Sjostrom and More in a Star-Studded Women’s Line-up

Image Source: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Global titlists Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), Kylie Masse (CAN), and the Aussies Kaylee McKeown and Lani Pallister will be taking on the defending World Aquatics Swimming World Cup series winner Beata Nelson (USA) across the three legs of the 2023 tour calendar.

Sjostrom comes into the Swimming World Cup off a torrid finish to this summer’s World Aquatics Championships. In Fukuoka, Sjostrom won her 20th and 21st individual medals to pass the previous all-time best career mark of 20 medals that Michael Phelps earned in his legendary career.

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

Look for Sjostrom to get stronger and stronger throughout the 2023 Swimming World Cup season.

“I’m super happy with my races this summer at the World Champs,” the 30-year-old Swede said. “Afterwards, I took a well-needed break. Now, I’m back to light training now and, hopefully, I will be able to swim some solid races on the World Cup after this break. I think I will get faster and faster at each stop.”

Big Names, Big Potential Paydays

Image Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Additional financial incentives include a USD 10,000 bonus for setting a new World Record as well as a USD 10,000 bump in pay for athletes that complete a “crown” by winning the same event in all three cities. 

Look for athletes to capitalise on these bonuses. In 2022, during the World Cup series held in a 25m course, USA’s Katie Ledecky set World Records in the 800m (7:57.42) and 1500m (15:08.24) freestyle events and just barely missed breaking the all-time women’s short course mark for the 400m freestyle.

Five athletes earned the bonus for winning an event across all legs of the 2022 tour, with Trinidad & Tobago’s Carter earning three crowns by going a perfect nine-for-nine across the 50m finals for backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

Not only did Carter and Nelson earn the overall Swimming World Cup titles in 2022, but they also topped the men’s and women’s overall prize money tables, too, with Carter earning USD 160,000 and Nelson taking home USD 152,000 across the nine days of racing.

Expect the Unexpected | Swimming World Cup a Perfect Proving Ground for the Age-Group Elite

Image Source: Michael P. Hall/ Aquatics

Also writing themselves into the all-time junior record books for 25m racing were Canada’s Summer McIntosh and Bella Sims of the United States. The then-16-year-old McIntosh set World Junior Records in the women’s 400m freestyle (3:52.80) and women’s 400m IM (4:21.49) events while Sims set the all-time junior records in the women’s 400m backstroke (55.75) and 200m freestyle (1:52.59) events.  

“I definitely did not expect this,” said Sims last year after setting those two World Junior Records within 12 minutes.

“I’m a little shocked right now…I never imagined I’d get that time,” said McIntosh last year after rallying past USA’s Katie Ledecky in her home pool during the Swimming World Cup in Toronto to win the 400m freestyle and nearly set the World Record.

Historic and Trendy | Three of Europe’s Best Cities Play Host to the Swimming World Cup 2023 Season

Image Source: Swimming in Athens during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Just like last year, the tour gets underway in Berlin (6-8 October) before continuing on its tour of enticing European cities to Athens (13-15 October) before wrapping up in Budapest (20-22 October).

“I always love coming to Berlin and Budapest,” said Sjostrom. “I have actually never been to Athens so I’m looking forward to going there. Hopefully, I’ll have some time for sightseeing.”

Hungary’s Milak expressed excitement for Budapest’s place on this year’s tour with the 200m butterfly World Record-holder calling the Duna Arena a swimming “palace” and lane four of the competition pool “my second home.”

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

Added Milak: “I broke the world record last year here, won world titles, European titles. I also train here every day, so being part of World Cup action once more in the Duna Arena will be fabulous. I can’t wait to compete in front of our home crowd, our fantastic fans.”

Image Source: Lyndon Ferns celebrates South Africa winning the men's swimming 4x100m free relay at the Athens 2004 Games (Al Bello/Getty Images)

South Africa’s Le Clos expressed a super high level of stoke to race across the three cities.

“They’re all very special. Berlin was the birth of Chad 2.0, Athens will be the first time competing in the city where the South Africans destroyed everyone in the 4x100 Free Relay. Of course, Budapest is one of my favourite swimming venues. I love the fans In Budapest and I hope they will cheer for me like they always do.”

A Crowd Pleaser | Swimming World Cup

Image Source: Fans in Budapest come out in numbers when World Aquatics events come to town (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Athlete performances during last year’s Swimming World Cup gave World Aquatics plenty of content to celebrate. The posts, tweets, articles, videos, and live streams resonated at an unprecedented level with audiences. This led to World Aquatics generating 110 million video views on Facebook, 220,000 hours watched on YouTube, and 7.4 million accounts reached on Instagram – all record numbers for the Swimming World Cup.

Fans following this year's Swimming World Cups will be getting exclusive, behind-the-scenes content from these athletes throughout the 2023 tour. 

Racing on the Swimming World Cup resonates with athletes, too.

“The experiences outside of the pool were great. Swimming is a great sport and allows you to travel across the world, but sometimes you are at a meet, and you don't get to actually experience the city or the country in which you are staying,” Fink said, recalling last year’s Swimming World Cups. “I've had many meets at Indianapolis, but I will always remember driving on the Indianapolis Speedway or having my own intro out of the tunnel in an NBA arena.”

Contributing: Gunnar Bentz