Maureen Croes, FINA Media Committee Member & Anna Kozina, FINA Media Committee Chairwoman

The performances in the Free Team event final at the 18th FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea had the spectators in the Yeomju Gymnasium on the edges of their seat.

The routines were impressive, creative, innovative and exciting to watch. For the past two decades, Russia has been the best in the Free Team event, tonight the Russians continued their dominance.

The Russian choreographies are trendsetting, continuously developing new patterns, lifts and acrobatics, leaving the rest of the Artistic Swimming world trying to catch up.

“Shaman”, the routine the Russian swimmers presented was from start to finish a jaw dropping performance. Receiving 9.8’s from the judges for the technical difficulty and execution portion of the final score, well deserved for their routine which had several lengthy underwater sequences, as well as an incredible boost of two athletes in a headstand. With 98.000 points, the Russian’s were awarded the gold medal, the seventh gold medal of the 2019 Gwangju World Championships and the eleventh gold medal in a row in the Free Team event.

Team Russia

As was the case in the 2015 Kazan and the 2017 Budapest World Championships, the silver medal tonight was won by China. With the routine themed “Ode to the Heroines”, the Chinese swimmers used the pool as their battlefield, and their choreography to reveal their strength and will to succeed. This determination was evident from the start of the routine with a flawless execution of a lift that showed strength as well as flexibility, immediately followed by a very powerful and high throw. The routine continued strong as the Chinese athletes executed their patterns and movements beautifully. The performance received 96.0333 points, earning them their fourth silver medal of these championships.

Team China

In the Free Team event, Ukraine won the bronze medal at the 2013 Barcelona and 2017 Budapest World Championships, while Japan won the bronze medal at the 2007 Melbourne and 2015 Kazan World Championships.

Ukraine’s theme “Shadow’s Game”, signifying that in every struggle good always triumphs over evil. This theme, like several of their themes this week, an expression of their progress to the top of the Artistic Swimming world. The Ukrainian swimmers, in gorgeous black and white bathing suits that symbolized the contrast between good and evil, proved that their themes are not just philosophical thoughts, but are goals towards which they are working.

Claiming the bronze medal with 94.3667 points, Ukraine earned the first step onto the podium.

Team Ukraine

In honor of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Japan’s team used this opportunity to introduce the world to the Japanese festival “Matsuri”. An upbeat routine, in which the Japanese were thoroughly enjoying themselves. The Japanese executed well, but the difficulty of the routine would not be enough for a medal, as they received one point less than the Ukraine, 93.3667.

Team Japan

Noteworthy, was the spectators support for host Team Korea during the preliminary round. The spectators rewarded every move of the Korean routine with big applause and cheering. The support of the crowd gave the Korean Team confidence and strength. Although Team Korea’s routine themed “Dark & Light” did not qualify for the finals, they were without a doubt the crowd’s favourite.

QUOTES

Team Free

Varvara Subbotina (RUS), gold: On being the youngest athlete in the team:

“I felt that gap when I paired up with Svetlana Kolecnichenko to perform duet at European Championships in Glasgow. But Sveta and all other girls supported me in order to make me feel confident. Now I don’t pay attention to this difference in age that much. By the way we got in swimmingly with Alla Shishkina who is 29 and 11 years older than me.”

On the performance:

“I was in reserve in Budapesr-2017 and didn’t compete in team routine then. That’s why I was very nervous here in Gwangju. This was my debut at World Championships. I was part of the team at World series in Kazan. But it was not so worrying. I’m happy now that everything worked out in the final.”

Li Guo, Yu Feng (CHN), silver: On the execution:

“The goal was to improve our performance in the final. In the preliminary round we had some flaws in technical aspects as we were very tired. We got back at the hotel after women’s tech team final at 11 p.m. and slept for only 5 hours. But we are a team. We managed to come through this challenge. Actually we got higher scores in the final.”

On the theme of the routine:

“Compared with last edition of the World championship our team has a new routine. We started creating it six month ago. We wanted to show Chinese character and present the beauty of China to the world.”

“The most difficult elements of the routine are tree lifts. Especially the one we do after diving in to the water from the platform.”

Yelizaveta Yakhno (UKR), bronze

“We showed this program “Dancing shadows” at European Championship in Glasgow last year. So this is the second performance. And we definitely will have a new routine at Olympics.”

“But I must say this one is really good. It’s very complicated. We have difficult and spectacular lifts: the double lift and the lift with standing position head first and with a turn. We also have long underwater parts, a lot of paired combinations and connecting elements when we have to clutch toe to toe. Of course, we are focused on technique. But at the same time we try to be emotional and artistic. There is powerful and aggressive part and a light-hearted part to a calm music. We try to be different.”

Juka Fukumura, Megumu Yoshida (JPN), 4th place

“The theme of our program is “Tokyo festival”. The reason we’ve made this choice is the upcoming Olympics. We wanted the audience to understand and enjoy our culture. We know that Russian tech duet is “Fantastic Tokio”. So everybody is in expectation of the Games.”