The Road to Tokyo Starts in St. Petersburg

The 2019 European Cup will start in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 10th, and is the first Olympic qualifier of the season for the 2020 Olympic Games. The winners of the duet and team events will qualify for the European spots.

This competition is not going to be a massive nail-biter for the gold, as Russia is 99.9999% going to win the duet and team events and qualify to the Olympics barring a major, major, MAJOR, disaster, as in the swimmers decide to stop and go on strike halfway through the routine, or if the pool literally collapses… although they probably would still keep swimming. Really, Russia is going to qualify to the games in front of its home crowd, so that will certainly be a great feeling for the athletes.

We already got a glimpse of the not-really-new duet of Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina, and the entire Russian squad a few weeks ago at the Kazan world series stop. Kolesnichenko and Romashina also competed at the Japan Open only two weeks ago. In Kazan, the Russians introduced new choreographies for technical team (Russian folklore dance) and technical duet (Japanese breakbeat hiphop music) while keeping old ones for its free team (Shamans) and free duet (Aliens).

There should not be any major changes there, as the Russians already know they will comfortably win this meet. They are also the heavy favorites to win both gold in the mixed duet events with Aleksandr Maltsev and Maya Gurbanberdieva, and should compete relatively pressure-free as Italy is not sending Manila Flamini and Giorgio Minisini to this meet. Russia’s junior mixed duet of Mikhail Vasilev and Kristina Averina will also compete.

While the senior national team is focusing on the Olympic events, we will still be delighted to watch the insane free combination from Moscow that won the Russian national championships in Kazan a few weeks ago with a massive 92.5333. That roster is just as stacked as it was back then, and they are the clear favorites for the gold in that event. Don’t miss it, as it truly is one hell of a routine, especially when you think it technically is a club routine. In highlight, Russia will be represented by the St. Petersburg team, which again won that event at nationals with 85.4667.

Speaking of Italy, the nation is sending its ‘B’ squad to this meet while its ‘A’ team is getting ready for a training camp, hiding away and working on its new choreographies. It’s a bit of a bummer as Italy is one of the last big country we haven’t seen yet as a team this year, but it is going full-out with the mysticism and secrecy and there is not much we can do about it but wait.

This Italian squad is made mostly of up-and-coming senior swimmers, alongside some of the nation’s top junior swimmers: Elisa Barbiani, Costanza Brogioli, Veronica Gallo, Marta Iacoacci, Marta Murru, Carmen Rocchino,  Lucrezia Ruggiero, Federica Sala, Aurora Savi, Isotta Sportelli, Alice Tavio, and Francesca Zunino. Sala will also be paired with Nicolo Ogliari in the free mixed duet event. The two won silver at the winter senior nationals last February, right behind Flamini and Minisini.

Murru, Sala and Zunino were part of the 2018 European Championships training squad, while Barbiani and Gallo have been more or less in the wings for a little while now. Brogioli, Iacoacci, Rocchino, Ruggiero, Savi and Sportelli have all had (or still do) many years on the junior national team under their belt, and are being set to move up the ranks to the ‘A’ team likely next Olympic cycle. Rocchino, Savi and Tavio are also still swimming in the junior category. It is all in all an impressive show of depth for the country to be able to send a full senior team, and a mixed duet, to this major European event.

On the contrary, Spain is sending its top team to St Petersburg. The Spanish just unveiled their new free team routine at the Japan Open a few weeks ago, set to the theme of “Discovery of an Island.” Spain is set to compete in all events except the free combination, so it should be the first time this year we see the technical duet and technical team routines, which choreographies likely remain unchanged since last season. One routine from Spain you cannot miss is its explosive highlight routine to “Thunderstruck” from AC/DC.

Greece will be back out for the first time since the Hellas Beetles Cup a month ago, but only in the Olympic events. It will be interesting to see this young and renewed Greek team once more, and mostly how it measures up against a lot more European nations. The Greek had then unveiled a new technical duet set to Nirvana, with veterans Evangelia Platanioti and Evangelia Papazoglou, but had kept all of its other choreographies from last season. We can also expect in the team events Belarus, Finland, Great Britain, and Israel. While Russia and Spain are clear contenders for gold and silver, the bronze medal is a bit up in the air especially since we have never really seen this specific Italian team out yet.

Much like the Italians, Ukraine is in hideout for now, and will only be represented in St Petersburg by its duet of Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk. Austria won’t be sending the Alexandri sisters to Russia, but rather its ‘B’ duets of Raffaela and Verena Breit, and Hanna Kinda Bekesi, Yvette Pinter and Vassilissa Neussl. Serbia‘s pair of Nevena Dimitrijevic and Jelena Kontic is not taking a break (ever apparently) after already competing every weekend for the last three weeks in the world series, and will be in St Petersburg to continue its insane marathon of meets. Turkey will compete for the first time this year in the duet, with its veterans Defne Barkici and Misra Gundes, and mixed duet events. It’s a nation we rarely get to see outside of the major international competitions, so it will be exciting to see what it is up to.

On top of the duets coming with their teams, we can also expect to see once more pairs from the Netherlands with Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer, Germany with Marlene Bojer and Daniela Reinhardt, Liechtenstein with Lara Mechnig and Marluce Schierscher, Portugal with Maria Beatriz Goncalves and Cheila Vieira, but also Croatia and San Marino.

Other than Italy and Ukraine, other notable missing European nations are France, Switzerland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia.

As a reminder, this competition does not feature the solo events. Medals will be awarded in each event for the top three, however the Olympic qualification spot will be determined based on the combined results of the technical and free routines.

You can find all the needed information about this meet here.

Article by Christina Marmet.



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