Olga Kamardina, FINA correspondent in Hungary

Two remarkable events highlighted penultimate day of the 16th FINA World Junior Artistic Swimming Championships in Budapest. Mixed Technical Duets first vied their junior merits, and Free Team Final saw Russia en route to the clean golden sweep.

MIXED DUET TECHNICAL

The 6-participant Mixed Duet Technical final kicked off another fruitful day in Budapest. Fantastic Duna Arena was a full pack, wishing to celebrate the first juniors mixed champions in the history. The quest for the medals was rich in bright performances and innovative choreography. However, pace-makers remained the same, and the always favorites Russians, which swam first, were very convincing unveiling their story.


Photo: credit to Jozsef Szaka

Alina Mantuleko and Mikhail Vasiliev presented a routine called “A little less conversation” by Elvis Presley. It was a stream of emotions, which were properly highlighted by required technical elements. Staged and choreographed by the 3 times Olympic champion Olga Brusnikina and her assistant, the program did not save much energy of the swimmers and specifically had a play on lifts, very spectacular and very complicated. As a result, the most entertaining program in Budapest scored Alina Mantulenko and Mikhail Vasilev 83.6404 points, absolute personal best, which will not be ever repeated.

“The overall we have collected is neither bad, nor great, - acknowledged Alina Mantulenko of Russia. – Our coach said, she is pleased with the result, but we know, we can do better. Unfortunately, we shall never improve this overall during the competitions, as this is my last year in the junior age group, and my teammate Mikhail will have to look for the new junior partner”.

The bar, set by Russians, was pretty high, and none of their competitors, swimming afterwards, could either repeat or approach the gold winning total.


Photo: credit to Jozsef Szaka

Chinese vied Japanese for their first silver appearance in Budapest, and could be congratulated on such a success. “Wings of Liberty”, narrated with a strong Asian philosophical accent, was a good aide to Rong Liu and Haoyu Shi. Scoring 79.8538, they had nothing better to do but to stand still and wait for their opponents. Jimma Iwasaki and Kana Miyauchi of Japan performed to “They don’t care about us” by Michael Jackson and swimming last played them a bad trick. Japanese youngsters, coached by Keiko Chilba, did not cope with the pressure and could not jump over their heads. Receiving 78.7287, they were a little over 1 point adrift to the 2nd ranked pair.

“We saw Chinese swimminh and thought they have left the door open for us, - shared their emotions Jumma Iwasaki, as they completed their program. – We felt spiritually high, but were a little nervous, and this was not a good help in our story. Our coach has just congratulated us on the bronze medal, but we know now it could have been a medal of the different color”.

There were 3 other nations in the competition, which presented their Mixed Duet Technical programs. “Mahhabbah” by Troppkillaz performed by Kazakhstan’s duo burned the fire on the stands, but scored lowly 67.5128 points. Another story by Michael Jackson, called “Thriller”, was staged by Greece, which was a better difficulty level and accordingly went forth to fourth, 74.3927. Slovak duo, having the first night at the international arena, showed out of contest as their junior swimmers, aged but 13, were too young to be chasing merits.

TEAM FREE

Russian festival went on in the Team Free final. Like two years ago in Kazan and 4 years ago in Helsinki, the European powerhouse kept on dominating all the way through to the final round and landed gold, which none could actually have doubted.


Photo: credit to Jozsef Szaka

Their “Batman” story was staged by legendary Svetlana Romashina and Natalia Ischenko, largely decorated by acrobatic elements. According to the judges, the execution was close to perfect, as the overall received exceeded 92.7347, registered on the Technical portion yesterday. Russian mixed pair also managed to improve on themselves, comparing to the European Junior Championships in Helsinki and to the prelims, in all cases braking through an impressive 93 points mark.

“The stakes were high to match expectations of the crowd, - explained team’s captain and one of the most experienced members of the Russian junior team Milena Maretich. - We were up to defend the title earned at the previous championships, and show our European win was not a coincidence as well. Was it difficult to earn 93.6667 points? Yes, of course. None sees, but we work very hard to achieve such good results and keep up the skills level”.

Second and third places were to be played between 3 nations.