With the cancellation of the German Open this year, the French Open will be the first big international event to finally get the season started. This meet also serves as the first of the 2018 FINA World Series.
With the new rules and technical elements, most countries in attendance will present new choreographies for their technical routines and will look for feedbacks from the judges before the season progresses. This year’s attendance at the French Open is quite high as we can expect 30 nations across 10 events.
It is well known the Russians don’t like to show up throughout the season, but rather only compete at the biggest event of the season, usually the European Championships or the World Championships. Russia has attended this meet in the past, but it has usually been lower-ranked or club swimmers and seldom senior national team members. However this year, the nation is sending its very best. Russia entered one technical solo, two free solos, one technical duet, one free mixed duet and one technical team, and fans are in for quite a show.
Per the Russian press, Kolesnichenko will present her ‘Amazon’ free solo, while the young Varvara Subbotina will make her big return to the international stage in the technical solo event, which will coincidentally be her senior debut as well. Both will be paired for the first time in the technical duet with the jazz program from Budapest, albeit modified to fit the new elements.
The senior team will compete in the technical routine only. All of the 2017 world champions are back except two. Vlada Chigireva, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, suffered a knee injury and hasn’t resumed training yet. Fellow Olympian Maria Shurochkina resumed training later than her teammates and is listed as an alternate on the entry list (that said, the entry list is riddled with mistakes so maybe take it with a grain of salt). Michaela Kalancha, formerly in the mixed duet, is back in the routine alongside Anastasia Arkhipovskaya who served as an alternate last year. Subbotina and Kolesnichenko will not compete in the team event.
Finally, the new mixed duet of Aleksandr Maltsev and Maya Gurbanberdieva will make its debuts in the free mixed duet event. The two will keep the same dynamic “Sing Sing Sing” choreography that won Maltsev and Michaela Kalancha gold at the 2017 FINA World Championships. Maltsev will also swim a free solo.
As usual, Ukraine will be present in all events but the mixed duets. The team faces the loss of their best swimmer Anna Voloshyna, who is taking a break this season. Yelyzaveta Yakhno and Anastasia Savchuk will both compete in the solo events, and are paired together for the duet events. Yakhno has always been a very expressive soloist and was stellar as a junior as she won silver in solo and duet, and bronze in team at the 2016 FINA Jr. World Championships, and three bronze at the 2015 European Games. In 2017, Yakhno and Voloshyna earned two bronze medals in the duet at the world championships, and Savchuk was the alternate.
Moreover, Ukraine is entering Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva for the duet events as well. Other than Voloshyna and veteran Kseniya Sydorenko, the vast majority of the country’s swimmers from last season are back, so the level of the team routines should remain constant. The crowd will get to view a new technical team routine, but the Ukrainians have kept their ‘Illusion’ free routine for the meantime.
Another exciting country is China, and fans will be treated once again to the technical duet of twin sisters Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen, silver medalists at the 2017 FINA World Championships. In the free duet, two other pairs of twins will compete: the Wang sisters and the Liu sisters, the latter still juniors. The nation is also competing in the technical team event, and the roster is stacked with most of the athletes who won China’s first world gold medal ever in free combination in Budapest. The Chinese looked fantastic during technical team training, and if anybody can hope of catching the Russians, it’s them. China will also present its mixed duet as well, which we first discovered internationally last year at worlds.
Spain is entered in the technical mixed duet with Pau Ribes and Berta Ferreras, and in free combination. It will be very exciting to see what the Spanish have been up to since new head coach Mayuko Fujiki took over the national team last October. While not entered in the solo, Ona Carbonell may be back in the combo, an event she has not actually competed in since 2014. She is as of today listed as an alternate on the entry list, but things may change when the event comes around.
The host team France will use this meet to present a lot of new choreographies to the judges and the home crowd. The French will present a new technical routine on the theme of ‘Cleopatra’, and will be entered in the highlight for the first time with a Cancan routine. We are also in for an interesting competition between two duets fighting for the 2020 Olympic spot: Charlotte and Laura Tremble, versus Maureen Jenkins and Eve Planeix.
The Tremble twins competed in the technical duet at worlds last year and placed 11th. This year, they will introduce a new program to “Smatch My Bitch Up” by Prodigy that highlights their power and rapidity. Their free program was partially inspired by last year’s ‘Angels’ routine which they only swam once, but has been reworked to adapt to their strengths better.
Jenkins and Planeix competed at the European Cup and the European Junior Championships in 2017. While they are keeping their same free duet, the two will make their debut in the technical duet event with a Tango routine. Both have improved and have a completely different styles than the twins, so it should be a good fight between the two duets. In addition, Jenkins will compete in the technical solo while Planeix will continue swimming the free solo.
Italy will only sent its solo, duet and mixed duet routines. A few weeks ago, Linda Cerruti presented a new free solo to “Angel” by Massive Attack with fairly intricate and unique choreography that pushes the envelope. In the absence of Mariangela Perrupato, 2017 world champion Manila Flamini is back the free mixed duet with Giorgio Minisini. At winter nationals a few weeks ago, the two competed the same free routine they had last season set to a mix of electro and dubstep music, and we can probably expect to see it again here. In the same fashion, Japan only sent its solo, duet and mixed duets to Montreuil.
The Austrian triplets have retired their Michael Jackson technical program so once again anticipate something new here, but they will keep the same gorgeous free duet to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ than last summer that was created by Anastasia Ermakova. Continuing with the sisters, Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer from the Netherlands will be here as well, and it will be most interesting to see their progress since they have been training with Esther Jauma, formerly head coach of Spain.
Mexico will have Joana Jiménez in the technical solo just like at worlds, Nuria Diosdado will make her comeback in the free solo category, and two pairs will compete in the duet: one with Jiménez and Achach, and the other that we already know of Achach and Diosdado. Israel will show off its new team and free combination routines choreographed by Anna Tarres. Belarus will also be in attendance in most events, and fans should get to see its talented soloist Vasilina Khandoshka, another 2001 prodigy like Subbotina. Greece and Colombia will also compete in the solo and will have both their 2016 Olympic pairs in the duet categories.
And a fun trivia fact about this competition: we have ten sets of twins or triplets competing – Alexandri (AUT), Breit (AUT), Jiang (CHN), Wang (CHN), Liu (CHN Jr.), Wu (CHN Jr.), Tremble (FR), de Brouwer (NED), Bayandina (RUS), and Aleksiiva (UKR). Who’s getting on that photo-op already?