Johannesburg - Four of South Africa’s top swimmers will start their preparations for the world championships at the opening leg of the Mare Nostrum Series, in Monaco, on Saturday.
Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos and former world champion Roland Schoeman will lead South Africa’s charge at the meeting.
Schoeman, who heads into the gala as the top-ranked swimmer in the 50m freestyle and butterfly events, will again have to stave off a challenge by Le Clos in the 50m butterfly.
The 32-year-old Schoeman boasts the third fastest time of the season, at 23.11 seconds, posted at the SA Championships in Port Elizabeth in April.
He tightened his stronghold in the butterfly event when he beat Le Clos to the wall at the championships.
Schoeman will also be the hunted in his specialist 50m freestyle event, and will be looking to improve on the 21.88sec he clocked in Port Elizabeth.
Le Clos will be the favourite in the 100m and 200m butterfly events, in which he won silver and gold medals respectively at the London Olympics.
He is expected to face a stiff challenge from Russia’s Evgeny Korotyshkin, who shared second place with him at the Games in the 100m butterfly event.
Korotyshkin boasts the second fastest time of the season, at 51.19sec.
Germany’s Steffen Deibler will have a score to settle with Le Clos and Korotyshkin, after narrowly missing out on a podium place at the Olympics thanks to the duo.
Deibler posted the fastest time of 51.19sec this season in this event at a gala in Berlin in April.
Le Clos’ time of 51.44sec, which he swam in Port Elizabeth, is the fifth fastest so far this season.
In his specialist 200m butterfly event, Le Clos will line up against Japan’s Yuki Kobori, who swam the second fastest time this season when he clocked a time of one minute, 55.51sec (1:55.51) in Japan in April.
The South African’s time of 1:56.35 posted at the SA Championships is the eighth fastest this season. He will be joined by compatriot Michael Meyer in the event.
Meyer will also be in action in the 200m freestyle and in the 200m and 400m individual medleys.
Rising star Myles Brown will join Meyer and Le Clos in the 200m freestyle event. He also swims in the 400m and 100m freestyle events.