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Phelps on wishlist for future editions of Singapore Swim Stars

"Scheduling conflicts" kept ultimate Olympian from appearing at this year's event, held next week at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, organisers say.

SINGAPORE: Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian ever, could line up at the starting blocks of the OCBC Aquatic Centre as early as next year, as organisers of the Prudential Singapore Swim Stars revealed on Thursday (Aug 28) that they were in talks with the 18-time Olympic gold medallist to make his first competitive appearance in Singapore.

Ahead of next week’s meet from Sep 5 to 7, Stephan Caron, co-founder of Sports Swim Organisation, told TODAY that scheduling conflicts did not allow the 29-year-old American great to compete here.

“Yes, we are working on that (getting Phelps here),” said Caron, who won two 100m freestyle bronze medals for France in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

“Phelps is huge, he is the world’s most famous swimmer and his reputation goes well beyond swimming.”

Caron is also hopeful of attracting the likes of Brazilian sensation Cesar Cielo, France’s Florent Manaudou, Chad le Clos of South Africa, American heartthrob Ryan Lochte and China’s double Olympic gold medallist Sun Yang for future editions of the Singapore Swim Stars.

The inaugural edition kicks off next Friday and will feature a star-studded line-up that includes South Africa’s reiging Olympic breaststroke champion Cameron van der Burgh, England’s Commonwealth Games champion Ben Proud, four-time Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan and newly-minted Youth Olympics Games champion Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania. They will compete for the total prize purse of US$140,000 (S$175,000). The first swimmer to clock a world record time here will also win US$10,000 in cash.

With the Singapore event budgeted at a cost of €1 milion (S$1.65 million), Caron said sponsorship from companies such as Prudential, Marina Bay Sands and Coca-Cola will cover about 50 per cent of that.

About half of the 3,000 seats at the OCBC Aquatic Centre have been sold, and organisers are hopeful sales will pick up closer to the start of the event.

Swim Stars is also planning a stop in Europe next year, before moving to Australia and the United States in the future.

“We would like to have two or three of these every year. Singapore is the proof of concept,” said Caron. “We are committed here for five years, and by then we hope to have a filled venue, see world-class performances, and hopefully a world record.”