Last but not least in our preview series, we have the free combination events. Since the entries were published yesterday, it makes it a bit easier to preview the event rather than base off our predictions from the regular season. With the absence of Russia and the big unknown that is the ‘provincial’ Chinese team, the fight for the medals is going to probably be the most exciting here in Budapest.
Indeed, Russia will not be entering the free combination event. It was fairly predictable since the Russian federation only announced eight swimmers plus two alternates a few weeks, and it would have announced 10 and two if it were to swim a combo.
Now, this means that for a very rare occasion in our sport, we will have a different gold medal winner. China is the first nation that comes to mind to win if Russia does not participate in an event. However and as we have talked about before, China is sending a mix of province swimmers instead of a ‘real’ national team. This team is still going to be great, no doubt about that, but can it challenge for gold in the absence of Russia and against the full-strength teams of Japan and Ukraine? A medal, sure, but gold is unlikely.
At the 2015 World Championships, Japan came away with the bronze medal with a 93.8000 while Ukraine got fourth with 93.4000. All through 2016 and the regular season, the two have been battling it out for who will come out on top, so it’s going to be thrilling to see who becomes dominant in Budapest. Japan has the edge, but Ukraine really isn’t far behind.
Routines-wise, Japan has presented a lovely new combo this season (which you can view at the 7:50:45 mark below) to the theme of the sea (or mermaids), with some interesting, risk-taking choreography in the first lap where the swimmers completely move apart to opposite sides of the pool.
On the other hand, Ukraine has been competing internationally the same combo that it has been doing since 2015, and we are kind of over it. The Ukrainians are renowned for renewing their routines frequently, but somehow we have been stuck with this combo for already three seasons. However, they reportedly presented a new choreography at the Ukrainian nationals earlier this season, so let’s cross our fingers they are keeping it secret for Worlds and that they will spare us of another competition with the same routine.
Italy is also very much in a position to challenge for a medal. We haven’t seen their combo at all this season, and they are undoubtedly aiming to surprise at Worlds. After keeping the same routine in 2015 and 2016, it looks like we will be treated to a new one in Budapest choreographed by Anastasia Ermakova.
Spain is potentially in a position to challenge for a medal, but it might be a harder task than for the nations mentioned above. It only competed its routine once at the Spanish Open and scored a 89.4668 to grab silver behind Ukraine’s 90.6001. However and very much like the Ukrainians, it’s been three seasons of it already and the junior team also just swam at the Junior European Championships in Belgrade, so we will see if Spain has some surprises in store for us or if it will maintain that routine.
Spain’s combo at the Spanish Open starts at 0:15 below:
France is back in the combo event after a four-year absence. Its last routine in 2013 on the history of cinema was quite memorable due to the swimsuits changing colors halfway through the routine. This season the theme is simply “Paris,” and the French team revisits some of the significant events that have marked the city throughout the years. The junior team just competed it in Belgrade, and you can view it here.
Belarus’ team has been hiding all season but will compete in all team events in Budapest, including the combo. The nation has been on the rise these last few years, and this routine should be great to watch.
Greece‘s combo is fairly dramatic, to the music “Into Darkness” by Thomas Bergersen, and looks like to be portraying the fight between angels and demons, at least judging with the general atmosphere, swimsuit and headpieces.
A few other participants from 2015 will be back as well in Kazakhstan, Macau, Mexico, North Korea, and Switzerland. In addition, we will get to see routines from Germany, Slovakia and Uzbekistan, three nations that did not enter the event in Kazan.
Sadly and surprisingly, we won’t get to see Canada in this event this season, which is unfortunate as it has always had original and fun routines here. Besides, it’s not like the Canadians don’t have a routine, as they were supposed to compete it at the Canadian Open in May. But again, the season has been seemingly rough for them with numerous injuries and the coach’s departure about a month ago, so it might have been the wisest decision to forgo the combo for now.
All in all, the complete absence of Russia and of China at its full strength does create a very exciting event for us to watch. The medals are up for grabs realistically amongst four to five countries, so get ready for a thrilling finish in finals.
You can find more information on the 2017 FINA World Championships here. Inside Synchro will be in Budapest to cover the event, so stay tuned for an extensive coverage of the competition!