2019 World Championships Preview – Free Combination & Highlight

This final preview will take a look at the free combination and highlight events for the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju. This is the first time the highlight event is included at the world championships.

  • Free Combination

The field for the combo event is looking fantastic once again this season, with many of the top teams choosing to enter and 15 countries in total (yes, we do have the entry list!). In 2017, China had won its first world title ever through its win in combo, but Russia is apparently not going to let China win anything ever again, because it is coming back in the combo this year.

That’s right, after about four years of not competing in the free combination event, Russia is back. The Russians have not swam in that event at all this year, even though they did compete at three meets, so this will be one new routine to look forward to. By virtue of being Russians, they are the favorites to win this title back.

China will compete again in the combo and has announced it has kept the same routine as in 2017. They only competed the routine at the China Open this year for a 94.9000. It will realistically be difficult for the Chinese to defend their title because it’s pretty likely Russia is going to knock it out of the park, but they are of course obvious medal contenders, and a shoe-in for at least the silver medal.

The defending silver-medalists Ukraine continues to compete in every event it possibly can, and has presented a lovely new choreography this year to the theme of “Magic Castle.” Watching that routine truly does take you to another world, and just like with the other team routines from the Ukrainians, do not miss their acrobatics as they are out of this world. They first swam it at the Spanish Open (see below) and earned 92.6332, while they scored a few weeks later at the world series super final a 94.2667, which is dangerously close to China.

Japan has also kept its same combo routine as in 2017 to the theme of Mermaids. The Japanese swam it at the Japan Open and Synchro America Open, where they earned 92.3000 and 93.8167 respectively, so it will be interesting to see if they can challenge for a medal against their current main opponents Ukraine. Once again, they have not competed against each other in any team event this year, so this should be another tight battle.

While Spain will not present a combo, Italy will be part of this field as well, using their Dolphins-themed choreography. It has been the same choreography for a few years now, and essentially every Italian age group national team swims it, so fans are certainly familiar with it. The Italians ‘A’ squad has however not competed it this season yet.

Brazil has an amazing and entertaining routine to the theme of Superheroes, where every athletes wears a different suit and embodies a different superhero. Every athlete also gets individually featured at one point in the routine with acrobatics or lifts, which is not something every team is capable of doing. The Brazilians did compete that routine at the French Open and received 83.4333 for it.

Israel will surely be on Brazil’s heels in that event, just like in the other team events, with its “Party Rocking” combo. The music choices are excellent and popular, so it is likely the crowd will get into it and clap along. Similarly to the tech and free teams, the Israelis have immensely improved in this event as well, and earned their first ever European medal with it at the European Cup for a score of 84.0667. The nation was not competing combo back in 2017, but it is certainly a likely candidate for a historical spot in finals.

The federation from Greece has stated that the nation will be in this event as well, likely with its same Chess routine we saw last year at the European Championships. The Greek did compete in this event only once at the Hellas Beetles Cup, but it was with their ‘B’ squad.

Belarus will be in this event too as it competed it twice this year already, at Russian nationals and at the European Cup. They have changed to a new choreography this season to jazzy music, and have received a season-best score of 82.9333 at the European Cup.

Hungary, KazakhstanSlovakia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand will also compete in the combo event.

Sadly, it appears Mexico is focusing on the Olympic events, which is a bummer as it did compete last season a new combo using the music from the movie ‘Coco,’ and it truly was a lovely routine that not many got to see internationally. However once again, this is not a certainty as there are no entry lists up yet. We won’t see free combination routines from Canada, the U.S. and France either, and Great Britain is not sending a team at all to Gwangju.

  • Highlight

As mentioned above, this is the first year the highlight event is contested at a world championships. Eight nations are entered in the event. Russia and China look to be out of the picture, so the race is on for the gold.

Ukraine has been a mainstay in this event since 2017, and is the obvious the favorite for the title with only eight teams and in the absence of Japan, its main rival As with any of its other team routines, the acrobatics are excellent and unmatched. The Ukrainians have competed three times this season with this routine and recorded a season-high of 94.4667 at the super final.

Spain has also competed in this event for the first time this season, and has shown an explosive choreography to “Thunderstruck” from AC/DC, leather jackets and all. The routine is very exciting to watch, and has received twice a season-high score of 91.6333, which is close enough to Japan’s score to make it extremely interesting.

Just like in the technical and free team events, we have not see Italy at all this season, but it will compete in highlight for the first time ever with its top squad in Gwangju. The Italians’ music is “Rise of Evil” by Flags of Our Fathers, and they have worked on the choreography with Anastasia Ermakova among others.

The Canadians also are competing in this event for the first time this season, with a choreography by Denise Sauvé. Just like with every other routine, Canada has competed extensively this event, and received a season-high score of 89.7667 at the super final. France is another nation to watch out for in this field, with its very patriotic Cancan routine, the same as last season. The French have obviously and tremendously improved on their acrobatics these last two years, so don’t miss them in this routine.

Israel has also competed in this event a lot this past two years, and earned another historical bronze medal at the European Cup thanks to it, with a season-high score of 83.6667. They will certainly be part of this field in Gwangju. Hungary and Thailand are two other nations we can expect to see in this event.

The free combination preliminaries are set for July 18 at 11:00 am, and finals for July 20 at 7:00 pm, which will be the very last event of the competition. Highlights will go straight to finals on July 15 at 7:00 pm.

Article by Christina Marmet

Cover photo by Liz Corman.

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