The second-to-last meet of the FINA World Series is set to begin on Friday on the beautiful Greek island of Syros. This meet is shaping up to be an exciting one, with teams from Mexico and Greece competing for the first time on the international scene this season, and the one and only Bill May will be there in solo.
The home team of Greece will make its season debuts in the team events. The team is still young, but most the worlds’ team is back this year. Eight swimmers will bring their experience back, but the nation will have to do without Evangelia Platanioti this time around. According to the federation, Platanioti just underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis on Tuesday, and will thus obviously not compete in Syros. In addition to all team routines, Greece will still have its junior soloist (Anna Maria Taxopoulou), and junior duet (Taxopoulou and Georgia Vasilopoulou) out. Taxopoulou and Vasilopoulou have already competed at the Budapest Open earlier this season, where they managed 80.3835 in technical and 83.2999 in free.
Mexico has been hiding all season and has been preparing for the 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games in mid-July. The Mexicans ended the 2017 season on a high at the FINA World Championships with an eighth-place finish in technical and free teams, a sixth-place ranking in free combination, and scores in the high 87 to 88. The crowd in Greece will get to see all seven routines the nation will showcase at the Games later this summer, including a few new choreographies such as a new free combination set (appropriately) to the music of the movie Coco.
The Mexican team training for the Games is an experienced one, with seven out of 10 swimmers who competed at worlds back on the squad. This doesn’t even include the duet of Karem Achach and Nuria Diosdado, who has already competed this season at the French Open in the technical event, and the nation’s soloist Joana Jimenez Garcia. Jimenez and Diosdado competed in the technical and free solo, respectively, at the French Open. We can expect all three to contribute here.
The legendary Bill May will be in Greece to compete in solo with his club the Santa Clara Aquamaids, so make sure to not miss him as he’s always extraordinary to watch.
We are in for a huge showdown in the mixed duet event, as essentially all the top contenders will be there. The Russian pair of Aleksandr Maltsev and Maya Gurbanberdieva is back out for the first time since the French Open, and it will once again compete against Italy‘s Giorgio Minisini and Manila Flamini. It will be thrilling to see how these two match up in the free event as the Italians just showed off their new free choreography at the Synchro America Open.
Japan is also sending its mixed duet of Atsushi Abe and Yumi Adachi, who have shown huge improvements already since last season and could contend to a podium finish at next year’s worlds. Spain‘s duet of Pau Ribes and Berta Ferreras will compete in Greece as well. Finally in really exciting news, Turkey‘s mixed pair will be back out for the first time since 2015. Gökçe Akgün had trouble finding a steady partner to swim with him ever since the 2015 FINA World Championships, but he is now partnered with Eda Tuncay.
The team competition is also shaping up to be an interesting battle as France will compete in Syros for its last time out until the European Championships. The French have been working all season to be ahead of Greece and thus position themselves for a potential qualification to Tokyo, and they now will finally be able to see how they fare against the home team.
This will also be a great occasion to see how France does against Mexico. The French have received very competitive scores this season that could have matched or beat those of both of their direct competitors’ last year. Indeed at the Canadian Open two weeks ago, they obtained season-high scores of 87.2000 in free and 84.1938 in technical, which certainly would have put them above Greece last season and very close to Mexico.
However, the rules and technical elements have changed, and it is thus difficult to compare scores. It is very much up in the air how these three will end up ranking against one another as we have seen nothing from Mexico and Greece yet as mentioned above.
In addition to its mixed duet, Turkey will also make its international season debuts across multiple events. Moreover, the crowd can expect routines from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. It is likely the Ukrainians will be represented by their junior team as the senior team has already announced it is done competing until the European Championships.
More information on the competition is available here.