In the blink of an eye, the French Open is already behind us. The 2019 international season has now officially started, and the rankings, especially in the duets, are already shaping up to be a thrill for the rest of the season.
In the technical duet event, Ukraine‘s new pair of Anastasiya Savchuk and Marta Fiedina narrowly won the gold medal with a 0.0733 margin over Japan. This new duet is a great match in terms of looks, but Fiedina is still visibly a bit weaker and less stable than Savchuk in terms of technique, and nearly fell on her last element. The Japanese new pair of Inui with Megumu Yoshida also are a great match, and they both looked sharp and crisp in their elements, as we can usually expect from Japanese swimmers.
Third place went to Charlotte and Laura Tremble from France, while Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer from the Netherlands landed only 0.500 points behind them. Both pairs are looking tremendous, and the latter’s new technical routine showed off their progress in speed, execution and extensions.
Great Britain‘s duet of Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe is also on the rise. The two only swam the technical duet event here to a karate-theme routine, and already started the season nearly three points higher than where they ended in 2018. They finished only 1.5948 behind the bronze medalists, and could very well shake up the European and world hierarchy as this season advances.
The free duet event brought out some interesting and unexpected results. Once again, Ukraine, represented by the young duet of Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva, won gold by a very slim margin of 0.1000 points ahead of the Japanese duet.
Spain beat Italy‘s duet by 0.3000 and reverted back to their former European position, despite a major mistake in a hybrid towards the end of the routine. Ona Carbonell and Sara Saldana introduced a new-ish routine to the theme of flamenco, a style that the Spanish more than master and own. However if you have followed the French Open closely over the years, the music and bits of the choreography may have looked familiar as this routine was already performed by the Chinese duet from the Hunan province in 2017.
Just like in tech, the gap is closing between the Tremble and the de Brouwer twins. Both pairs presented new choreographies here and both are improving. The Amazon-theme from the Tremble sisters allowed them to finish ahead once more in this event, and it highlighted their strengths in speed and energy well. The other French duet with the familiar faces of Camille Bravard and Margaux Chabirand had a fantastic free swim for a score 81.3667 with the same choreograpy that they presented last year in the junior European Championships.
The pair from Singapore, Debbie Soh and Miya Yong, were coached by Julie Sauvé and Géraldine Narvaez and had a great showing overall. Their improvement is visible, and they already increased their technical score by over a point since the Asian Games. Across both duet events, the Swiss pair of Vivienne Koch and Noemi Peschl comfortably came out ahead of the other duet of Maxence Bellina and Maria Piffaretti, and it is likely we will only see this first pair in the next competitions this season. Finally, Israel‘s new pair of Shelly Bobritsky and Eden Blecher did work out well for its first time out as it already scored a 80.4667 in free, topping the best score of last year’s duet at the European Championships.
In the technical solo event, Japan‘s Yukiko Inui won the gold ahead of Spain‘s Ona Carbonell by the narrowest of margins of 0.0401 points. Inui was more stable and her elements were the sharpest of the field, and Carbonell did struggle like most swimmers with the last element, the Barracuda Continuous Spin 720°. It was however great to see Carbonell back out, especially looking like she never really left, and this was a solid showing for her first meet back.
Inui also grabbed the gold in free solo, followed closely by Ukraine‘s up-and-coming talent Fiedina. Eve Planeix, representing France, followed for bronze, but the story of this event was the huge improvement of Great Britain‘s Shortman, who is now only 0.1667 points behind Planeix. While most nations are starting a bit lower than where they ended the last season, which is a relatively normal trend, Shortman picked up right where she left off with 84.8000, topping her personal best. She seemed to have gained maturity, stability and control in her movements in the water with her choreography to “I Put a Spell on You.” Vasilina Khandoshka from Belarus unveiled a new routine to the soundtrack of Alice in Wonderland, and maintained a very impressive pace throughout the entire routine.
In the mixed duets, Japan’s Atsushi Abe and Yumi Adachi showed off a mermaid-themed technical routine and a jungle-themed free routine, both of which completely and pleasantly veered off from the more traditional style and themes we can expect from the nation. The two continue improving, and are truly unmatched around the world in terms of throws and acrobatics.
Pau Ribes and Emma Garcia competed together for the first time for Spain in tech, but kept the same routine as last season. In the free event, Ribes was back with Berta Ferreras and introduced a new tango routine, full of passion and exciting throws and lifts as well.
Ukraine ended up only competing in the technical team event with a new choreography. They won the event despite mistakes and synchronization errors a few elements and will need to be sharper to stay in the race for medals at worlds, but they were a lock for gold here. France was also a lock for silver, and the nation showed off a new, fast-paced routine to “Freedom” by Aretha Franklin. Israel finished third and ahead of Brazil for the bronze, a significant result as Brazilian teams are always on the bubble for a world team final, which could mean the same thing now for Israel.
Brazil overall looked strong and improved by over a point in both events since their last outing at the 2018 South American Championships, and nearly four points in some events since the 2018 UANA Pan American Championships. Their combo to the theme of Superheroes was particularly fun, and I believe each team member gets a throw or a lift at some point in the routine to highlight each of their superpowers, something that is fairly rare and difficult to do. The Brazilians did overtake Israel in the free team and free combination events.
Great Britain kept its Spiders-theme combo once again. They too looked improved and were able to pass Israel for the silver medal in that event; the Brits were behind Israel by about two points at the 2018 European Championships.
Spain was only entered as a team in the highlight event, where it was a lock for gold. The crowd absolutely loved the routine, filled with high energy, impressive throws – albeit one was a bit scary as the flyer came straight back down onto the team -, and lifts that show off the back flexibility of two of its swimmers.
Article by Christina Marmet.
Cover photo by Liz Corman.