Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Soni of the United States is looking forward to renewing her “very good” rivalry with Australia’s Leisel Jones when the two go head-to-head at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Dubai next week.
Soni won her gold medal in Beijing in 2008 when she edged out Jones in the 200m breaststroke final and she beat the Australian in the 100m and 200m events in this year’s Pan-Pacific Championships in Irvine, California in August.
But Jones turned the tables on Soni to win the 100m breaststroke final in Beijing and was also part of the 4x100m medley relay team that beat the US, including Soni, to gold.
That level of competition between the pair sets things up beautifully for another confrontation at the spectacular, new Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex on the Dubai Bypass Road when the Championships take place from December 15 to 19.
Soni, last month named USA Swimming’s Female Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row, cannot wait for another great battle with her friend and rival from Australia.
“It’s a very good rivalry,” she said. “I really respect Leisel and I think she respects me so that’s always a good thing.
“I hadn’t got to race her very much at all outside the Olympics so being able to get to know her a bit more at the Pan-Pacs in California this past summer was a great thing.
“She’s a great girl and I know (after coming second to Soni in California) she is going to come back stronger. I’m sure we are in for an exciting race against each other.”
Soni admitted she prefers long course racing in the 50-metre pool but the 23 year-old said she is still desperate to win a medal for the first time in a short course World Championships.
“The last short course racing I did was in the Duel in the Pool in Manchester in England last December (when the USA team raced against a combined Great Britain, Italy and Germany team). They were great short course races but since then I haven’t swum any short course metres.
“Long course is always my favourite and the less turns the better, that’s always best for me, but I’m really excited to see how it goes in short course this time.
“The last time I raced short course was in (body) suits so I am really excited to see what happens in Dubai,” added Soni.
The USA squad for the Championships features 20 Olympic athletes, including reigning short course world champions Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian. Lochte earned four gold and two silver medals at the previous FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Manchester in 2008 while Adrian earned two golds and one silver medal.
The championships mark the USA squad’s first trip to the UAE and it will also be the first time the USA has sent a full-strength squad to a FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) since 2004 when the event was held on home soil in Indianapolis.
When the squad was announced in October USA Swimming interim national team head coach Jim Wood said: “This team represents one of the most talented USA swimming squads I’ve seen. Our team is a solid mix of new talent and veteran leadership and that is really exciting, both for this meet and as we head toward London (the 2012 Olympic Games) in less than two years.”
The USA’s squad for the championships can be found at http://tinyurl.com/23tpr8l.
Vice-Championships Director Khalid Al Zahed said: “The contest between Rebecca Soni and Leisel Jones is a mouth-watering prospect and one of a host of fantastic duels that we will see throughout the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) as we welcome some of the world’s best athletes to Dubai.
“With such a strong USA squad in action, and athletes from all over the world looking to challenge them, we are set for five days of wonderful action at a spectacular, new venue.
“The Championships will be a superb spectacle and this is a fantastic opportunity for the people of the UAE to enjoy top-class sport.”
Among other elite swimmers set to take part in the Championships are Jones’ Australia team-mate Geoff Huegill, China’s Liu Zige, Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, Alain Bernard of France and Japan’s Ryosuke Irie.
Tickets for the 10th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) are on sale and can be purchased at selected Spinneys stores in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as at www.boxofficeme.com or via the official Championships website: http://www.dubaiswimming2010.ae.