BERLIN: A host of Olympic and world champions will compete in the European championships from today looking to land crucial early blows just two years out from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In recent times, the French team have been very strong, but they will be without Olympic 400m freestyle champion Camille Muffat who has retired.
Also out is backstroke specialist Camille Lacourt, the three-time world champion, who has a hip injury as well as sprint freestyler Frederic Bousquet, the six-time world medallist.
But Yannick Agnel will return to Europe from the United States where he trains alongside Michael Phelps, now back in competition, at North Baltimore.
The 22-year-old is both Olympic and world champion over in the 200m freestyle although he faces home favourite and world record holder Paul Biedermann in Berlin.
But whether the French can dominate as they have done in recent times is debatable.
Florent Manaudou is the reigning Olympic 50m freestyle champion but he will encounter opposition in the form of Great Britain’s Ben Proud who won double gold at last month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 19-year-old stands atop the world rankings in the 50m butterfly -- the only man under the 23-second mark -- and he is third in Europe over 50m freestyle behind 2013 world silver medallist Vladimir Morozov and Manaudou.
While he is going straight into a second competition in the space of a few weeks, for his rivals the Berlin meet is their major one of the year.
Olympic and world champion Daniel Gyurta may not be contesting the 200m breaststroke but he will still race over two lengths where he will come up against the strong British pairing of Adam Peaty and Ross Murdoch.
Gyurta’s fellow Hungarian Katinka Hosszu is known as the “Iron Lady” because of the gruelling multi-event programmes she undertakes in competition throughout the year.
One of her main rivals for the 200metres individual medley title, world ranked number one Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, has withdrawn through illness.
Neither will she face Hannah Miley in the longer individual medley.However, she will meet Mireia Belmonte Garcia who, like Hosszu, will no doubt take on a gruelling programme. Sarah Sjostrom took a sledgehammer to the 50m butterfly last month, lowering it to 24.43sec.
She may not replicate that but she will face competitive foe in Britain’s Fran Halsall.