There is a bit more visibility in the duet events than in the solo for these World Championships. Many nations heavily focused on them last year ahead of the Tokyo Games. In Budapest, the duet competition is shaping up to be quite exciting and full of surprises as many pairs have changed in this post-Olympic year.
LAST TIME OUT
The duets from Russia, China and Ukraine dominated both podiums at the 2019 World Championships. Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina are the reigning World champions in both technical and free duets. Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan from China were the silver medalists, and Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk from Ukraine finished in bronze. These pairs in this exact order are also the reigning Olympic medalists.
However, none of these swimmers will compete in Budapest in the duet event. Once again, Russia is banned from this competition, while Huang and Sun have both retired. Fiedina is not part of the Ukrainian duet this year, and Savchuk is taking a well-deserved break.
A few nations will benefit from the consistency and experience of returning athletes who jumped head first into this new Olympic cycle. Let’s start with those who have already competed this year.
Anna Maria and Eirini Alexandri are looking to keep their momentum from a fantastic and breakout 2021 season. At the European Championships, they won the first medals for Austria in the duet since 1985. A few months later, they finished seventh at the Olympics, the country’s best-ever finish, and also climbed up five spots in the rankings since Rio.
The two already competed in two World Series this year with both of their Olympic routines. In Budapest, they will look to not only continue moving up the hierarchy, but also to fight for a medal. Indeed, the door is wide open in the free event due to the absence of many traditional powerhouses like Russia, Japan and presumably Canada.
Israel’s Shelly Bobritsky and Eden Blecher are also certainly on the upswing. In Tokyo, they tied the country’s best finish dating back to 2008 by placing 15th. They kept their Olympic routines this season as well, both choreographed by Ana Tarrés. A few weeks ago at the World Series Super Final, they finally moved ahead of the U.S. in the free event after inching closer and closer in each prior meet.
These two did not qualify to the duet finals at the last World Championships. They should certainly do so in Budapest if they continue increasing their scores like we’ve seen so far.
Marlene Bojer and Michelle Zimmer are back for Germany, and certainly hungry for more after missing the Olympic qualification by 0.1866 points. They unveiled a new free duet at the Super Final to the theme of “Climate Change,” a topic very dear to their hearts.
Their music features the iconic voices of David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Leonardo DiCaprio. They wanted to present something more meaningful this season and show what they are truly passionate about.
Other returning duets who have competed this year include Maria Beatriz Goncalves and Cheila Vieira (Portugal), Jasmine Verbena and Jasmine Zonzini (San Marino), Nevena Dimitrijevic and Jelena Kontic (Serbia), Debbie Soh and Miya Yong (Singapore), and Karolina Kluskova and Aneta Mrazkova (Czech Republic).
Serbia’s pair, also joined by Sofija Dzipkovic in the free event, is currently ironing out the last details of its routines with Russian Olympic champion Anastasia Ermakova. The Czech duet is now coached by Oleksandra Kashuba, a World and European medalist for Ukraine.
A few Olympic duets will be back to the international stage for the first time this year. Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro, two-time Olympians in duet and team, will make their season debuts in Budapest. The Italians are expected to unveil two new duet routines again, including a free choreography made by Olympic champions Svetlana Romashina and Aleksandra Patskevitch.
Nuria Diosdado and Joana Jimenez from Mexico will be back as well with the same routines they presented in Tokyo. Diosdado had originally hinted at closing out her career after these Olympics. She however felt ready to go again after taking a much-needed break. She is now aiming for Paris, which would be her fourth Olympics, and to continue improving alongside Jimenez.
Spain’s Olympic duet of Iris Tio and Alisa Ozhogina has not competed in the event all season, but should theoretically do so here as both have been named to the team roster. It is likely the two will present a new free duet as their previous choreography had already been used by the country for three years.
Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe, 2020 Olympians for Great Britain, will compete in both technical and free duet for the first time this year.
China and Ukraine will present two new-ish duets in Budapest. Both are certainly in contention for the World titles.
Twins Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi have been around for years as part of China’s national team, but never got the chance to compete on the big senior stage as a duet yet. Qianyi is also an Olympic silver medalist with the team. Sadly, Liuyi missed out on the Olympic team selection because of an untimely injury. They did win gold in free duet at the French Open back in 2018, and also competed in duet at the 2014 FINA Junior World Championships. More recently, they placed second behind the Olympic duet at the National Games of China.
Ukraine’s twins Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva have a bit of a similar path, being part of the national team for years but not yet getting to shine as a duet on the senior stage yet. They last competed internationally as a duet at the 2018 FINA World Junior Championships. A few weeks ago, they did swim at the Italian Summer Nationals in the free event, and looked ready to finally make their return to the event.
Japan will also very much be in the hunt for a potential World title, and for a medal at the very least. As mentioned in the solo preview, Inui Yukiko is mostly working on solos this season and will not appear in the duet. Yoshida Megumu, her duet partner at the Olympics, has been paired with the ridiculously talented Higa Moe.
Higa, still only 14 (!), has never competed internationally before, but was amongst the best in the senior national team trials this year. She also absolutely held her own as the two competed in the technical duet at the Japanese Nationals last month and scored 90.8857. They will only swim in this event as well in Budapest.
Evangelia Platanioti will swim alongside Sofia Malkogeorgou for Greece in both duet events. Evangelia Papazoglou, Platanioti’s longtime partner, is still recovering from knee surgery. The two competed in the free duet preliminary in Tokyo before withdrawing from the rest of the meet due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the team.
Malkogeorgou was already part of the Greek national team from 2014 to 2018. She is quite experienced and competed extensively in multiple World and European Championships. She and Platanioti are a great match in the water and move fast and sharply. They may unveil new choreographies as both previous Olympic routines are now being swam by the junior duet.
Similarly, Bregje de Brouwer, a Tokyo Olympian for the Netherlands, has a new duet partner this season as her twin sister Noortje is nursing an injury. Marloes Steenbeek, 17, swam with Bregje in the Super Final and handled the pressure extremely well.
The two looked quite strong, and stayed ahead of some of their direct competitors like Israel and the U.S. The Netherlands barely missed out on the finals back in 2019, but is coming off an incredible ninth-place finish at the Olympics.
The U.S. has had so far a completely new duet throughout the World Series this season made of Megumi Field, Daniella Ramirez, and Natalia Vega.
At the Super Final, Field and Ramirez swam to a sped-up version of the song “1944” by Jamala, the 2016 Eurovision Winner. This poignant song is about the 1944 mass deportation of the ethnic Tatar population from Crimea by Stalin. The Americans had originally worked on a different routine set to Russian music. However, Ukrainian coach Anna Voloshyna changed everything after the war started. The free duet, consisting so far of Field and Vega, uses electronic music by Troyboi.
Anita Alvarez, two-time Olympian in the event, is expected to be back in at least one duet routine. She had been limited by a foot injury most of the regular season. Overall, the nation will look to bounce back from missing the Olympic Games final, and to improve on its 12th-place finish from 2019.
Lee Riyoung and Hur Yoonseo from South Korea certainly should be ones to watch as they have the potential to make it to the top 12. They have already made huge strides and improved the nation’s score by five points in one year. This is only their first season together.
Switzerland will have two different pairs in Budapest. Emma Grosvenor and Margaux Varesio will swim the technical event, and Ilona Farhni and Babou Schupbach the free. Both have competed extensively throughout the World Series circuit.
Laura Miccuci, Julia Catharino and Anna Giulia Veloso are listed for the duet for Brazil. Miccuci finished 12th in the Olympic Qualification Tournament last year with Luisa Borges, who isn’t competing this season. Luisina Caussi and Camila Pineda are slated to represent Argentina for the first time. Colombia will also unveil a new pair with Melissa Ceballos and Estefania Roa.
Duets from Australia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Malta, Turkey and Uzbekistan all made an appearance at some point this season in the World Series, and most should be at these championships.
THE NOTABLY MISSING AND QUESTION MARKS
France will not have a duet at the World Championships. At the beginning of the season, twins Anastasiya and Daria Bayandina were put forward as the nation’s new pair heading into this Olympic cycle. They competed in the technical duet in the first World Series meet, held virtually. Unfortunately and like the entire French squad, they had to withdraw from the French Open because of Covid-19.
The pair should have competed again in the Super Final a few weeks ago. They actually were training in Athens until they suddenly flew back to Paris early on the first competition day. The rest of the team stayed in Greece. They seemingly did not participate in the team’s training camp in Spain, and neither of them appear on the official team roster for Budapest.
Some question marks include Canada, Egypt, Kazakhstan and South Africa, all represented in the event at the Olympic Games. The Canadian national team participated in three World Series legs this season but never entered a duet. Tokyo Olympians Jacqueline Simoneau and Claudia Holzner are not competing this season; the latter has actually been on the poolside coaching.
Similarly, Kazakhstan competed in two World Series this season, but did not enter any duets. Aleksandra Nemich and Yekaterina Nemich last represented the nation at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Again, no entry list has been released at the time of this writing. More participants and surprises should be expected.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Deepbluemedia
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