The next leg of the FINA World Series is already upon us, this time in Madrid, Spain. Austria, Belarus, Chile, Finland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland are expected to compete.
The most exciting news of this meet is that fans will (finally) get to see the free duet and team choreographies from the home team. Spain has been mostly hiding so far from the public eye and has suspiciously managed to avoid competing its routines against its most direct competitors. The Spanish only showed off their technical duet and team routines at the Japan Open, and swam their free combination both at the French Open and at the Budapest Open. In Madrid, we will finally see the full scope of what the country has in store for us this season, and how it will position itself in the European hierarchy under the coaching of Mayuko Fujiki.
Once again and just like in the technical duet, the free duet will be swam by Paula Ramirez and Sara Saldana. Ona Carbonell, Ramirez’ partner in 2017, is taking it easy this season to focus on personal projects, so last year’s alternate Sara Saldana moved up to that spot.
The team impressed in Tokyo for its first time out with the technical routine, and we can only hope the improvement in both execution and confidence will be just as noticeable in the free routine. This should be a relatively comfortable meet for the Spanish squad, with no direct competitors that should threaten it from winning gold. Nevertheless, it will want to put out a good swim, as many people will be watching.
Aside from new routines from Spain, this meet will be exciting as we will likely see a wide variety of nations on the podium. In the duet events, the experienced Belarus pair of Iryna Limanouskaya and Veronika Yesipovich are likely candidates for a medal, very much like Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer from the Netherlands.
Kazakhstan will have its junior duet compete for the first time out on the international stage this year with Yana Degtyareva and Jennifer Russanova. The senior duet selection for Switzerland will continue here between the duets of Maria Piffaretti and Maxence Bellina, against Vivienne Koch and Noemi Peschl. Austria and Poland will also compete two duets. The pair from Chile will be back out for the first time since the French Open, and we will get to see once again the duets from Hungary and Serbia, who have been steady participants of these world series meets.
In the absence of any ‘big names’, the field is wide open in both solo events. Hungary‘s Szofi Kiss is one of the favorites to win both events, as she had the edge over Koch, her most direct competitor last weekend at the Budapest Open. Koch however shouldn’t be too far behind and is also a likely candidate for a podium finish. Since only one athlete per country is allowed to medal in the circuit, the third medalist is once again very much up in the air. Nevena Dimitrijevic from Serbia could pull it off in the free solo event, but Austria‘s Yvette Pinter should be right in the mix as well as she scored 75.7333 in Paris, while Dimitrijevic has been hovering around the 73s lately. One big unknown that could spoil the party is Kazakhstan‘s Degtyareva, who was the country’s soloist at the 2016 Jr. FINA World Championships, but she hasn’t been out as such at any major meets since.
The field is a bit depleted in the team events, with only three nations entered in technical and free events, two in the free combination and one in highlight. Austria, Spain and Kazakhstan will swim a technical team routine. The latter hasn’t competed in this event in about a year, as it only swam the free team at the 2017 world championships, but the roster of swimmers is essentially the same. Austria, Spain and Hungary will compete in the free event, while only the last two will swim in the free combination event. Finally, Kazakhstan is the only nation entered in the highlight event.
It is thrilling to see yet another mixed duet pair out of the international stage, as the Kazakh duet of Sofiya Lyakh and Olzhas Makhanbetiyarov will make its debut in the technical event. These two won’t compete in the free event, leaving Spain‘s Berta Ferreras and Pau Ribes as the sole competitors there.
All information on the competition is available here.