Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee

With the world under siege from the Covid-19 pandemic, few sporting events have managed to get off the ground, although FINA succeeded with the European men’s World League qualifiers earlier this month in Hungary.

Now it is time for the women to excel and emerge from the Covid-19 vacuum in what should be an Olympic year.

Postponed a year ago, the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament will go ahead from tomorrow in Trieste, Italy with eight teams seeking the all-important final two berths for the expanded 10-team Olympic Games programme.

The top eight positions have already been decided with United States of America and Canada hailing from the Americas; Australia taking the Oceania spot; host Japan and China from Asia; South Africa the African qualifier; and Europe supplying Spain and Russia.

Leading the charge in Trieste will be former Olympic champions Netherlands (2008) and Italy (2004), silver medallist Greece (2004) and Hungary, who finished in fourth at the last three Olympiads.

Italy was the silver medallist in Rio de Janeiro five years ago and is in the same group as Netherlands, alongside Olympic hopefuls France and Slovakia.

In Group B, Greece and Hungary will play 2000 and 2004 Games competitor Kazakhstan and relative international debutante Israel.

Teams have had to overcome strict Covid-19 testing to get into the country and be able to access the training and competition pools.

For some teams it will be the first competition for some time as limited access to swimming pools has hampered preparation and fitness levels might have been compromised.

The competition follows the usual format of three preliminary round matches, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. However, the main purpose of the tournament is to find the top two, so semifinal day is where the real action happens.

The opening day will have Hungary against Israel, Greece taking on Kazakhstan, France up against Italy and Netherlands clashing with Slovakia.

The men’s OGQT will be staged in Rotterdam next month.