Some of the biggest superstars of the Tokyo Olympic Games are set to take to the water in Sydney as the Duel in the Pool readies for a dramatic return, pitting the might of Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel and Team USA against Ariarne Titmus, Kyle Chalmers and the resurgent Australians.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age understands a new instalment of the match-race series, last held between the great swimming rivals in 2007, will be confirmed by Swimming Australia on Wednesday after months of negotiations with USA Swimming and the NSW Government.
Dates are yet to be revealed but it would likely be off the back of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham that runs from July 28-August 8, which in turn will be held following a rescheduled FINA World Championships in Budapest in mid-late July.
But with limited enthusiasm for that event from many of the sport’s headline acts, the Duel in the Pool presents as a major target for swimmers of both countries, setting the scene for a host of mouth-watering rematches after some thunderous showdowns in the Olympic pool in Tokyo.
Top of that list would be a 400m clash between Titmus and Ledecky, the American freestyle great, who was run down late by Titmus in what would be one of the most-memorable Olympic swimming finals in history.
And Chalmers, the Rio gold medal winner over the 100m freestyle, would get the chance to go head-to-head with his close friend and Tokyo champion Dressel, who held out the fast-finishing South Australian by the barest margin as part of his staggering haul of five gold medals and two world records in Japan.
The meet, likely to be held at Homebush, is the result of months of work behind the scenes from Swimming Australia, who have been desperate to showcase Tokyo headliners like record-breaking Emma McKeon, twin-backstroke champion Kaylee McKeown and breaststroker Zac Stubblety-Cook to home audiences.
First held in 2003, the Duel in the Pool was designed to pit the two dominant swimming nations against each other after they dominated international competition for the best part of a decade. The 2003 and 2005 versions were held in the USA, with the 2007 duel back at the Olympic pool in Sydney.
But with the Americans dominating what had become a one-sided rivalry, the Australians were swapped out for a combined European squad, which tended to suffer a similar fate. Now, with the Dolphins fresh off their best performance in an Olympic pool with nine Tokyo golds, the concept has fresh legs.
Caeleb Dressel reacts after winning the gold medal in the Men’s 100m freestyle final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.Credit:Getty
Australia’s swimmers are set to trial for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games in Adelaide in May but a number of top athletes, like Chalmers and McKeon, have already been given wildcard passes to the team and won’t take their place on the blocks.
But that pair, in particular, live for racing and wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to go head-to-head with Team USA in front of home fans, who will get a rare opportunity to see some elite racing on familiar turf, as well as some all-time Olympic greats in the prime of their careers.
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