Absentees add to uncertainty at world championships

Wed Jul 22, 2015 4:04am EDT
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By Julian Linden

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The absence of a handful of the world's best swimmers, including Michael Phelps, has added an air of uncertainty to the 16th world aquatic championships, starting in Russia on Friday.

Taking place in Kazan from July 24-August 9, the championships were meant to be a full dress rehearsal for next year's Olympics in Rio but a spate of high-profile withdrawals has diluted the competition.

The highest-profile no-show is Phelps, who came out of retirement in 2014 but was subsequently banned from representing the United States at the world championships after being convicted of drink driving late last year.

Australia's James Magnussen, who won the 100 meters freestyle gold at the last two world championships, will also be missing after electing to undergo shoulder surgery, giving up his chance to become the first man to win the blue-riband sprint three times in row.

France's Yannick Agnel, the reigning world and Olympic champion for 200m freestyle, is also skipping the world championships, because of a lung infection.

Japan's Kosuke Hagino, who has emerged as one of the major threats to Phelps in the individual medley events, withdrew earlier this month after slipping over on his way to training and fracturing his elbow.

The spotlight for the men's events in Kazan is now likely to fall on South Africa's Chad le Clos and China's Sun Yang.

One of the few men to have beaten Phelps at the Olympics, Le Clos will defend the 100m and 200m butterfly titles he won at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona and is also targeting the 50m, hoping to complete a unique treble.   Continued...