Spain, Ukraine Face Off in Las Palmas

The 2017 edition of the Spanish Open concluded on Sunday in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. It was the first time European rivals Spain and Ukraine competed against each other, which gave us a better preview of what’s to come for the two teams at the World Championships in a few months in Budapest, Hungary.

With only a few weeks left to go before Worlds, the Spanish Open was the perfect opportunity for many teams to compete in an outdoor pool, and mimic the same competition’s settings as in Hungary.

Since Ukraine did not participate in the European Cup a few weeks ago, this was the first time of the season we got to see how it measured up against Spain, especially in the duet event. The two nations are fierce European rivals that have gone neck and neck over the last few years, but both have also dealt with important roster changes with the arrival of younger swimmers in the senior ranks.

In the duet event, both faced the same situation: one of their top swimmers stayed on while the other retired and was replaced by a younger one. While Ukraine has had the edge of the Spanish pair recently, the tide turned in Las Palmas as Ona Carbonell and Paula Ramirez won the event. It’s quite a big deal for Spain to beat Ukraine again. It was the first time since 2013 that Spain overtook Ukraine in both technical and free routines, and it evidently reversed the rankings from the 2016 Olympics where the Ukrainians were fourth, and Spain fifth.

Carbonell and Ramirez looked polished and dynamic in front of the home crowd, and this result bodes well before Worlds, where the two might potentially be fighting for the bronze medal. Ukraine’s Yakhno and Voloshyna again showcased their new, fast-paced free routine they originally revealed at the Canadian Open a few weeks ago. The pair showed improvement, but it wasn’t quite enough to catch Spain, which took the lead by over three points.

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Carbonell and Ramirez (Spain) in the technical duet event.

The battle for bronze here was between Belarus and France, with the former eventually finishing ahead by a 0.3 margin. The free duet from Belarus has been steadily improving its scores since the beginning of the season, while France’s unfortunately (and a bit surprisingly) appears to follow a downward trend. These results were surprising as the French did not put up a performance here that could ultimately justify losing nearly four points in three months. In the tech event, the Tremble twins made their return to competition after dealing with some nagging injuries. Their 82.6705 wasn’t quite enough to overtake Belarus’ 82.7732, but it is a slight improvement since their last competition at the MUFE French Open in March.

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Anna Voloshyna.

Carbonell also won the gold in the solo event over Voloshyna, but by a less comfortable margin than in the duet. Indeed, Voloshyna has never been so close to passing Carbonell, and was only 0.267 behind the Spaniard in the free solo. The two displayed very different styles, with Carbonell focusing on innovation and technique while Voloshyna was all emotion and gave us a heartfelt performance. Surprisingly, Carbonell scored about 1.6 points lower here than at her season debuts at the Japan Open. Szofi Kiss from Hungary rounded out the podium with a total of 156.9575 for the bronze medal.

In the team-oriented events (team, free combination and highlight) Ukraine maintained its dominance over Spain and edged it out for all three golds. Ukraine has competed extensively this season but showed no signs of fatigue here, and looks poised to win the first edition of these FINA World Series. We have to give it to the Ukrainians who year after year enter all events, frequently compete in numerous international meets, and always innovate with at least one new routine per season.

Australia also made its international season debuts in the technical and free team events with its new senior national team, which featured five returning Olympians. It was nice to see a team we rarely get to see outside of the World Championships or the Olympic Games.

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Australia in the technical team event.

Some shake-ups also happened in the mixed duet event where Japan beat Spain for the gold medal. At the 2015 World Championships, Spain beat Japan by over two points in the free duet (Spain did not participate in the technical event at the time). Here, Japan continued improving and stunned by leading Spain by over 2.5 points. The Japanese pair is coming in as the underdog for Worlds and should not be counted out for a potential podium finish.

On the domestic side of things, former Jr. national team standout Irene Toledano (A.D. Sincro Retiro) won the solo category. C.N. Kallipolis won the duet (Georgina Viladot, Iris Tio), team and free combination events. The highlight was won by the C.N. Metropole with a fun ‘Samba’ routine. Moreover, Spain displayed a talented pool of swimmers born in the years 2001-2002. Half of C.N. Kallipolis’ team was composed of swimmers born in 2002, still technically falling under the 13-15 category. Some favorites from this weekend included Elena Melian from C.N. Metropole born in 2001 and who showcased strong technique for a third place finish in solo, and Iris Tio (C.N. Kallipolis) born in 2002 who ended up winning three gold medals.

All international results can be found here.

All domestic results can be found here.

Article by Christina Marmet

 

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