Olga Kamardina, FINA Correspondent in Russia

For the first time ever, Tatar’s capital welcomes FINA Artistic Swimming World Series. The 3rd leg of the circuit has kicked off today at the Aquatics Palace of Kazan, Russia, to come to a close 3 days later, on 21 April.

Competition Day 1, as usual, had a pretty tough agenda, featuring a press conference, an opening ceremony with folk and modern dances and 4 technical routines, which distributed the first sets of medals and ranking points for the solo, teams, women and mixed duets.

After the initial meets of the FINA Artistic Swimming World Series in Paris and Alexandropoulis, there were a few features typical to Kazan, already noted. One of them came alongside the big figures in the start lists, which first and foremost resulted of the merge, incorporating the FINA event and the Russian Championships. One of the strongest on the continent, nation-wide challenge has definitely added to the Kazan’s meet, making it stronger, longer and very spectacular. Host took a flying start, winning all 4 golds on offer where as China, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Belarus were up for the minor merits.

Photo: courtesy to LOC

Media opportunity: Lisa Schott congratulated Kazan on the successful start

In her opening speech at the press conference, FINA Technical Delegate and Artistic Swimming Committee Chairwoman Lisa Schott congratulated the Organising Committee on the successful premiere and wished good luck to all competitors.

“FINA is an often guest in Kazan, and we are very happy to bring here a brand new competition, - said Lisa Schott. – Artistic Swimming World Series is a big step forward to promote our sport, standing very close to the art. We have been testing it for two years now, and are pretty sure, that the resulting product is of the top quality. Spectators will definitely like the show, whereas swimmers take their chance to improve their skills competing.

Our schedule this year is very tough, - she added. - We got it launched in March in Paris, then visited Greece, and after Kazan go to China, Japan, USA and Canada, and then back to Europe. 8 stops within 3 months, and the best of the best will receive special invitation to the Super Final, due to take place this mid-June in Budapest”.

“Statistics speaks louder than words, and we are happy that the competitions underway have brought together over 300 swimmers, which includes representative of 12 countries, - commented Russian Artistic Swimming Federation President Alexey Vlasenko. - All participants have arrived safely, and some of them had already celebrated their first successes in Kazan”.

A number of decorated athletes, like Russian Svetlana Romashina and Svetlana Kolesnichenko, Italian Linda Cerruti, the Alexandri triplets from Austria, Vasilina Khandoshka of Belarus and world famous coaches Tatiana Pokrovskaya and Taniana Danchenko were also a part of this media opportunity and shared their expectations of the Kazan’s meet. Swimmers seemed to like everything they have seen in the city, agreeing on the universal truth: “Let the strongest win”.

“There is a popular proverb in Russia, saying that at home even the walls do help, so until now everything goes well, - added Tatiana Pokrovskaya, a legendary Russian coach, hinting at the first initial golds captured by her team in the morning session.

SOLO TECHNICAL: Host Russians set pace

Photo: courtesy to LOC

Competition program of the Artistic Swimming World Series in Kazan got it launched as 29 soloists of 12 nations swam their Technical routines. Olympic Champion Svetlana Kolesnichenko of Russia, the main star attraction to the home crowd, did not disappoint, finishing atop of the excited queue.

Swimming eighth, Kolesnichenko put out a confident performance to the “Zwei Survivor” by Lara Croft. Staged in late 2018, the routine highlighted her excellent footwork, strong verticals and top-quality elements. All spoke highly in her favor, procuring her a new season's best of 92.8144 points with the owesome 36.2144 on the elements.

“It was a good performance for the start of the year, I like my program a lot, however I see there is a room for improvement,” - the Olympic Champion said. “Here, I swam with joy, I didn’t have to hold back. The audience was great, I really appreciate them. Watching my score I was happy for a moment, but now I’m focusing on the next routines”.

Linda Cerruti of Italy must have been her principal challenger, but she withdrew her entry just before the competitions launched. In her absence, Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria finished the second best, earning 85.1902 points on her water “Storm” story. Vasilina Khandoshka of Belarus and Alisa Ozhogina representing CN Sivilla (ESP) were up to the clash on bronze.

“The storm means emotions and power, which are locked inside the swimmer, - commented on the choice of music Austrian coach and choreographer Albena Mladenova. – It is to help Vasiliki swim and perform elements on top level. As for today’s swim, we are pretty satisfied. She has coped with the last and very difficult element, which is a good omen. Of course, the marks could have been higher, but we are very enthusiastic looking into the new season”.

Vasilina Khandoshka of Belarus presented her version of a “Love story” to Placido Domingo versus Eugene Kohn. Her previous program presented in Paris one month ago nailed her bronze early at start. However, Kazan’s premiere was not that easy, though substantially improved her season’s best, 83.6312. Alisa Ozhogina of Spain put down “La danza del Toro” relating a corrida story. The public was moved and almost drove crazy as she demonstrated a number of difficult elements with a good amplitude, 83.7338.

“I felt really good while swimming. The choice of music was a sort of accidental. I was going shopping with my mum and suddenly heard the rhythms which jumped into my mind. I was doing pretty well at practices and I’m glad I could show at the competition what I have been practicing. I am planning to get improved in course of the season. This medal piece is the first I have ever collected in a solo event.”, - said Alisa Ozhogina.

DUET TECHNICAL: Kazan’s premiere of the new old favorites

Photo: courtesy to LOC

Favorites in the Women Duets contest had to wait up for their turn to exhibit, drawn in the second half of the 33-participants queue.

Austrian Alexandri sisters swam 16th, presenting a complex routine marrying “Spanish Caravan” and violin by the Prague Symphonic Orchestra. It was first done a month ago as the two out of the triplets turned hot ready to enhance their collection of 1 silver and 1 bronze medals earned last year. Their first international swim of 2019 turned to be pretty promising. Collecting 87.7417 overall with 34.7417 on the elements and 26.6000 on the artistic impression, they finished as high as third.

“We are pretty satisfied with the way we have performed the program, which was pretty complex from the technical view point. Scores are not bad, we have managed to added some 0.5000 comparing to last year, but we always strive to progress and will do our best to earn it, - Anna-Maria Alexandri highlighted.

“Synchronization is our strong side, so we shall look to make it matching our technical quality. Kazan is a lucky city for us, we have been competing here since 2015”, - added Eirini Alexandri.

Russia’s duo was long awaited and highly anticipated. #28 of the start list featured two Svetlanas - Olympic champions Kolesnichenko and Romashina. From the very first moments of their routine, they spoke loudly of their coming back as a pair to aim Tokyo 2020. “Fantastic Tokyo” program proved expectations of the home crowd. Both swimmers were in excellent condition, including Romashina, who became a mother but two years ago. Collecting impressive sum of 96.1768, including sky high 38.1481 on the elements, 29.1000 on the execution and 28.9000 on the impression, they landed atop of the Duets Technical contest.

“My comeback is highlighted by gold, and I am very happy about it, - commented Svetlana Romashina. – I think it is great to have happened in Kazan, Russia, as my mother had a chance to be present and watch it with her own eyes. I was not that nervous anticipating the start – no more than usually. The swim was quite OK. Are we satisfied with the swim? Yes, we are, if our coach is".

Tatiana Danchenko seemed to be sat with her decorated swimmers took their debut, smiling, leaving the room for accidental autograph session for the young athletes.

“A song for humans and machines” dances by Italian beauties Linda Cerruti/Constanza Ferro came after, but could not hit the bar raised, 89.8612.

“This is a brand new program, and we realize we shall have to train harder from now on to be competitive at the FINA World Championships in Korea later this July, - confessed Linda Cerruti. – We like everything in Kazan. Silver is a good thing to start in the pre-Olympic season”.

Vasilina Khandoshka and Daria Kulagina of Belarus with their Carmen story have been competitive but were stopped at a hand to the podium, 84.8887, followed by Uzbekistan’s Anastasiia Morozova/Anna Eltisheva in“Fiesta” resting on the fifth on 77.7988 points.

MIXED DUET TECHNICAL: Tango beats Dragons and Gangsters

Photo: courtesy to LOC

Young Spanish duo Fernando Diaz del Rio/Beatriz Castano soared to the Kazan’s bronze. Their techno story “Shut me down” by David Guetta, staged by Spanish specialist Lara Cabello, electrified everyone in the crowd. Totalling 74.3859, juniors felt pretty happy about the figures.

“We got in the know we were a duet just a week ago, - said Beatriz Castano. – We tried to find chemistry as fast as possible, but it shall evidently take some more time to feel each other pretty well. In Spain we residing in two different cities, which, of course, will not be an obstacle for our future trainings”.

Chinese Shi Haoyu/Zhang Yayi were also young, but more consistent and experienced. Participants of the FINA World Championships-2017 and a number of other senior meets danced out the spirit of “Dragons”. They were like two naughty creatures, thirsty for knowledge of the human world. The program was pretty attractive and spectacular, and brought the performers a 82.9349.

“This was not very bad indeed for the start of the season, - commented Chinese coach Wang Fang. – We hope, that during the coming season they will be able to progress. Our opponents here are very very strong. It was a pleasure to watch Russian duets competing”.

In fact, the clash on gold could have been between Russia and Russia, if not just one duo per country counted for the FINA ASWS table. The major stake of the national team landed on the elders’ side and Maya Gurbanberdyeva pairing two-time world champion Aleksandr Maltsev came out victorious again. They were presenting a well-known “Tango” story, sensitive and exciting, and, of course were a head above the rest of the crowd, pillaring on 89.8181.

“The program is not new though it is pretty attractive, this is why we decided to proceed performing it this Artistic Swimming World Series as well. Comparing to the previous season, there were a few technical changes. However we will work on a brand new program for the World Championships-2019, we will not disclose the details now, and it will be a surprise, - related the news Gana Maksimova, coach of the gold winning duo.

TEAM TECHNICAL: Russia quadrille golden 

Hosts kept on dominating, completing a clean sweep on the competition Day 1 of the FINA ASWS Leg in Kazan.

Team Technical was a brand new program staged by the legendary coach Tatiana Pokrovskaya in 2018. It was a Russian folk dance, called “quadrille”, which made Aquatics Palace go mad dancing. Endless transitions covered almost all perimeter of the dance floor. They were encrusted by the thrusts and busts, all in good time and in good tempo, elements on a fantastic amplitude. Russians’ overall reached 95.3411, setting a new height for the 2019 circuit. (Last year they finished atop of Leg#5 in Budapest on 94.6290 points.) However, record-setters seemed to be not that happy.

“We could have done it better, - confessed Alla Shishkina, member of the team Russia. – We hope, we will do better next time. We will work hard to improve. There is not much time left before the FINA World Championships, scheduled on July this year. Thanks to the Kazan’s crowd, who were cheering for us all the way long. They are really a good inspiration”.

A young Belarus team landed silver thanks to their "Todes dance" high on artistry, 83.4736, and in the process slighted Hungarians, whose bronze could definitely be a medal of better color, 78.4414. 

According to Alena Darmel-Dzimitrova, coach of Belarus, the team is happy about their performance, whereas silver shall come as a top motivation for all to work on a lot.

“It is the first start of our new team, with a lot of juniors, which are but a few months together, - she explained. – We would definitely need more time to build up good chemistry. We had some problems with synchronization, which is a matter of time to get resolved”.

“The music is very rhythmic, and it is the rhythm that helps to perform technical elements, - commented Hungarian coach Natalia Tarasova on her team’s performance. – Our program is new, and we had our first night in Greece one week ago, and it is a pleasure to state that we had improved by nearly 4 points”.

FINA Artistic Swimming World Series in Kazan, staged until April, 21, will proceed tomorrow with 4 more medals sets on offer – all free routines for Solo, Teams, Women and Mixed Duets.

Competition results. FINA Artistic Swimming World Series 2019. Leg 3.

Day 1 April, 19

Solo Technical:

1. Kolesnichenko Svetlana (RUS) 92.8144
2. Alexandri Vasiliki (AUT) 85.1902
3. Ozhogina Ozhogin Alisa (ESP) 83.7338
4. Khandoshika Vasilina (BLR) 83.6312
5. Russanova Jennifer (KAZ) 73.5767
6. Ambrazaite Natalija (LTU) 69.1198
7. Sainio Melania (FIN) 68.6061

Duets Technical:

1. Kolesnichenko Svetlana/Romashina Svetlana (RUS) 96.1481
2. Cerruti Linda/Ferro Costanza (ITA) 89.8612
3. Alexandri Anna-Maria/Alexsandri Eirini (AUT) 87.7417
4. Khandoshka Vasilina/Kulagina Daria (BLR) 84.8887
5. Morozova Anastasiya/Eltisheva Anna (UZB) 77.7988
6. David Janka/Gacs Boglarka (HUN) 76.5867
7. Zhiyengazy Zhaniya/Abdulina Karina (KAZ) 75.7111
8. Kontic Jelena/Dimitrijevic Nevena (SRB) 75.4729
9. Sainio Melania/Pitkanen Linnea (FIN) 65.8936

Mixed Duets Technical:

1. Gurbanberdieva Mayya/Maltsev Aleksandr (RUS) 89.8181
2. Shi Haoyu/Zhang Yayi (CHN) 82.9349
3. Diaz Del Rio Fernando/Castano Beatriz (ESP) 74.3859

Teams Technical:

1.Russia (Arkhipovskaia Anastasiia, Chigireva Vlada, Doroshko Mayya, Goliadkina Marina, Kalinina Veronika, Komar Polina, Shishkina Alla, Shurochkina Mariia, Kalancha Mikhaela – R, Subbotina Varvara – R) 95.3411

2.Belarus (Butsel Vera, Kiryliuk Marharyta, Koutsun Hanna, Kudzina Yana, Kuliashova Kseniya, Navasiolava Anastasiya, Privezentseva Vita, Vysotskaya Aliaksandra, Valasach Valeriya – R) 83.4736

3. Hungary (Apathy Anna, David Janka, Farkas Linda, Gacs Boglarka, Hungler Szabina, Kassai Kamilla, Szabo Anna, Teravagimov Virag, Di Franco Alice - R, Gersternkorn Mira - R, Gotz Lilien – R, Pentek Lili – R) 78.4414