After two days of preliminary rounds at the 2nd FINA World Youth Artistic Swimming Championships, the stage is set for exciting finals to crown the best 13- to 15-year-olds in the world. The event, featuring 136 future elite athletes from 21 countries, is hosted in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina at the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center. Today, the required figures competition saw all athletes performing the four randomly selected figures, “Ariana”, “Rio”, “Jupiter”, and Oceanea” for their figures score. The total score received will be added to each preliminary routine scores to determine the qualified athletes for the final rounds on Saturday and Sunday when they will be competing for the medals in each of the six events contested. Although today’s figure competition is a requirement as part of the overall score for each of the routine scores, medals are also awarded separately to the female and male athletes with the highest scores.
The figure competition for the judges is a marathon of evaluating the same figure performed by each athlete while staying focused and ensuring that the athlete’s quest for perfection is rewarded. For the athletes the figures competition brings mixed feelings. The Canadian duet partners Olena Verbinska, Abby Wang and reserve Nadia Crits, in unison claimed to be “very excited”. Great Britain’s Maxwell Sewell was quick to inform that he “was not looking forward to the event at all”, while his Mixed Duet partner Eve Young said “so-so”. Mexico’s Combination team was divided but were happy with the drawn Group of figures. Topping the ranking for the females with a total score of 79.2745 was Japanese Moe Higa. In second place, with 78.6308 points was France’s Laelys Alavez and Spain’s Rocio Calle Garcia rounded out the top three with 78.9379 points. For the male athletes, Lucas Valliccioni leads the field of seven male athletes with 75.4183 points, with USA’s Michael Chan (72.6045 points) in second and Kazakhstan’s Aldiyar Ramazanov (70.3333 points) in third.
After the completion of the figure competition the qualified routines for the final rounds of the Solo, Male Solo, Duet, Mixed Duet, Team, and Team Combination events were confirmed. Although Japan dominated four of the six events after the preliminary routines, the results of the Figures event changed the ranking significantly ensuring that the finals are going to be very exciting till the very last competitor. In the final round of the Female Solo event twelve countries are represented. The top five athletes to watch are Japan’s Moe Higa, France’s Laelys Alavez, Spain’s Carla Lorenzo Llusca, Canada’s Olena Verbinska, and USA’s Ayla Barry .
If the preliminary scores are any indication, the Duet event will be a close race where execution of the difficult aspects of the routines may well be the deciding factor. The Spaniards Rocio Calle Garcia and Xenia de la Puente Descals, the Japanese duo Rena Matsumoto and Risako Mitsuhasi, the Canadian’s Olena Verbinska and Abby Wang, the Americans Ayla Barry and Karen Xue, and the Mexicans Camila Argumedo Gomez and Carolina Arzate Carbia, all will have an opportunity to convince the judges that they are the best youth duets in the world.
In another historic moment for Artistic Swimming, the winner of the Male Solo event this weekend in Charlotte, will forever be the first champion of the first Male Only event at a World Youth Artistic Swimming Championships. France’s Lucas Valliccioni is the one to beat in the Male Solo event. Joining Valliccioni in this historic final are USA’s Michael Chan, Kazakhstan’s Aldiyar Ramazanov, Mexico’s Abner Monter da Silva, and Slovakia’s Ivan Solymosy.
The final of the Mixed Duet event includes six couples. Ranked first after the preliminary round and figures event are USA’s Michael Chan and Jennifer Ryu. The Americans are followed closely by Great Britain’s Maxwell Sewell and Eve Young and Kazakhstan’s Yasmina Islamova and Aldiyar Ramazanov. However, Slovakia’s Michaela Bernathova and Ivan Solymosy and Mexico’s Abner Monter da Silva and Jocelyn Zaragoza Hernandez have preliminary scores that are close enough for a change in the final ranking.
The battle for the gold medal in the Team event will be interesting. Japan outscored Spain in the preliminary routine 83.5667 to 83.2667. In return the athletes from Spain demonstrated their technical excellence in the Figures event and were able to top the Japanese 76.2704 to 74.3962. The battle for the bronze medal will feature the teams from the USA, Canada, and Mexico.
In the Mixed Combo event, the same four teams, Japan, Spain, USA, and Mexico are ranked first through fourth. It will come down to the smallest details, the perfectly executed hybrids and the ability for the athletes to use the music, facial expressions, and their choreographed movements that will decide who will occupy the three steps of the podium.
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