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Setting the standard internationally29/07/2015 - 05:49
Stars battle for world titles in Kazan's pool duel
With one eye on Rio de Janeiro, swimming's stars begin the battle on Sunday for world championship medals in Kazan to prove their form heading into the 2016 Olympic Games...
Stars battle for world titles in Kazan's pool duel660821ae127be0e60ef17ed9dc8a4f114ac04eb6.jpg
afp.com / Getty Images / Don Feria
The USA will bring a star-studded team to the Tatarstan capital, with marquee names including Olympic champions Missy Franklin, pictured, Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian
With one eye on Rio de Janeiro, swimming's stars begin the battle on Sunday for world championship medals in Kazan to prove their form heading into the 2016 Olympic Games.
The swimming section of the world aquatic championships runs from August 2-9 with hungry pretenders eager to steal some glory from reigning champions.
As ever, the USA bring a star-studded team to the Tatarstan capital, 800 kilometres east of Moscow, with marquee names including Olympic champions Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian.
Treble world record-holder Ledecky is the only American to top the 2015 world rankings in her events, with the year's best times in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle.
Ledecky was responsible for breaking two of the six world records which fell in the Barcelona pool when the world championships were last held two years ago.
Franklin won six gold medals in Barcelona, but has something to prove in Kazan after failing to win an event at a Santa Clara meet in June -- her only world championships tuneup.e4bba901f8f6fad14e35f656242b0f4166dae426.jpg
afp.com / Getty Images / Chris Coduto
Ryan Lochte, who has five Olympic titles and 15 long course world championship victories, is eager to bounce back from a 2014 he called "probably my worst year of swimming"
Likewise Lochte, who has five Olympic titles and 15 long course world championship victories, is eager to bounce back from a 2014 he called "probably my worst year of swimming."
The 30-year-old will be swimming at his sixth world championships and is looking for a fourth straight win in the 200m individual medley, but is taking nothing for granted.
"There's a bunch of other people out there," Lochte said. "Just because they're not there doesn't mean it should be a shoo-in for me."
- Sibling rivalry -
The Australian challenge will be led by two defending world champions in freestyler Cate Campbell and breaststroker Christian Sprenger.
"The difference between winning and losing can be as little as one-one-hundredth of a second," said Australia head coach Jacco Verhaeren.fda685034868d3cc0628c07668b2f33408cceb96.jpg
AFP / Peter Parks
Cate Campbell will get the chance to defend her world title in the women’s 100m freestyle when the swimming section of the world aquatic championships opens from August 2-9
"The World Championships, like the Olympics is always difficult; almost everyone is there; anything can happen and it is becoming tighter and tighter."
Campbell will get the chance to defend her world title in the women’s 100m freestyle and, if all goes to plan, she will line up for the final alongside her sister Bronte and both siblings are potential medallists.
But Netherlands' Femke Heemskerk along with Cate Campbell has posted the joint fastest time for 2015 and the Dutch swimmer will be pushing the Australian sisters all the way.
Of the teenage talent to watch out for, 18-year-old Australian Mack Horton has posted the world's fastest 400m and 800m freestyle times.
Teenage breaststroke sensation Ruta Meilutyte, who won the Olympic 100m breaststroke as a 15-year-old, is now 18 and the Plymouth-based teenager will be looking to defend her world title she won in the event from two years ago.
The Lithuanian teen set both the 50m and 100m breaststroke world records at the Barcelona championships two years ago.b83da7da0359d107a97c534b50de829e827b4b4d.jpg
AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi
Teenage breaststroke sensation Ruta Meilutyte, who won the Olympic 100m breaststroke as a 15-year-old, is now 18 and the Plymouth-based teenager will be looking to defend her world title
At the other end of the age spectrum, 35-year-old Grant Hackett returns after an almost seven year hiatus and will swim in the 4x200m relay.
Sun Yang, the bad boy of Chinese swimming, leads his nations bid to repeat the five golds they won in Barcelona two years ago.
The Chinese giant will be looking to add the world title to his Olympic gold in the men's 400m freestyle after a helter-skelter couple of years which also saw him banned for three months for a doping offence.
Stunned by Japan's Kosuke Hagino in the 200m at last year's Asian Games, the Chinese giant will want to prove his mettle as world champion in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle.
After flopping in Barcelona in 2013 when she failed to take a medal, Ye Shiwen, the Olympic 200m and 400m individual medley champion, has something to prove on the world stage.
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, the world champion over both distances, comes to Kazan on the back of a stellar season and will be out to attack Ye's eye-popping world 400m IM record of four minutes, 28.43secs set at the 2012 Olympics.
- missing medallists -3dfd3f6c3dfef8e88e9f4f4b4ada8d56b8ed55e9.jpg
AFP / Philippe Lopez
Sun Yang, the bad boy of Chinese swimming, leads his nations bid to repeat the five golds they won in Barcelona two years ago
Injury, illness, suspension and tragedy will rob Kazan of potential medallists.
Michael Phelps, the sport's greatest star, withdrew from USA's world championships' team after a drink-driving arrest last year.
Australia's 100m freestyle world champion James Magnussen will not be able to defend the title after shoulder surgery.
France's 200m freestyle world and Olympic champion Yannick Agnel will sit out Kazan with pleurisy.
South Korea's Olympic medallist Park Tae-hwan is serving a doping ban while Japan's Olympic bronze medallist swimmer Kosuke Hagino is also missing after fracturing his elbow in a bicycle accident.
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Essential news in text, photo, graphic and video format28/07/2015 - 20:02
Ukraine bans Putin buddy Depardieu for five years
AFP / Valery Hache
French actor Gerard Depardieu, pictured in Cannes on May 22, 2015, is blacklisted by Ukraine in apparent retribution for reportedly refusing to recognise the independence of the former Soviet state
Ukraine said Tuesday it had blacklisted French film star and newly minted Russian national Gerard Depardieu in apparent retribution for reportedly refusing to recognise the independence of the former Soviet state.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said the 66-year-old actor was this week barred from entering the country for five years.
She refused to be drawn on the reason for the decision.
But Ukraine's culture ministry had previously identified Depardieu and other Russia-friendly international film stars as national security threats whose movies should be banned.
Depardieu first outraged Kiev's new pro-Western leaders by striking up a close friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and once reportedly even denying the very existence of an independent Ukraine.
"I love Russia and Ukraine, which is part of Russia," the actor was widely quoted as telling a film festival in the Latvian capital Riga last year.
Depardieu never denied making the comments or enjoying warm relations with Putin, who backed the rule of a corruption-tainted Ukrainian president ousted by pro-European protests last year.
The acclaimed but controversial French actor left Paris in protest over a proposed tax on the super-rich and was handed a Russian passport by Putin in January 2013.
Depardieu's movies have been popular for decades throughout the ex-Soviet nations and he remains a household name in Ukraine, despite his recent wane in popularity in the West.
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