Feature | Artistic Swimming

All you need to know about Artistic Swimming at the 2019 World Championships

Ten golds are up for grabs in Gwangju, Korea with two teams bidding to earn places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

By Lorena Encabo ·

From 12th to 20th July, the Yeomju Gymnasium in Gwangju will host the artistic swimming events at the 2019 FINA World Championships.

There are no fewer than 10 gold medals at stake in Korea compared to two at the Olympic Games.

The duet and the team will be contested at Tokyo 2020 with the top two in the team event, excluding those who have already qualified, booking their place in Japan next year.

Svetlana Romashina (L) and Svetlana Kolesnichenko compete in the duet technical at the 2019 World Series event in Tokyo

Russia aim to sweep the board

There is one country to beat when it comes to artistic swimming - Russia.

The sport formerly known as synchronised swimming has been a constant fixture in the World Aquatics Championships since it was first held in 1973.

Russia did not win their first medal until 1998, but they have more than made up for lost time.

Since then they have taken 51 golds out of a possible 60 at world titles including clean sweeps of gold medals in 1998, 2011 and 2013.

Next best in the history of the World Championships is the USA on 14.

That dominance is even greater in the Olympic Games with Russia claiming every title on offer since Sydney 2000.

Coached by Tatiana Danchenko, the squad has aims of improving on their seven out of nine golds at the last Worlds in Budapest two years ago.

Olympic qualification is not a concern as the team secured a spot for them, and a duet, by winning May's European Champions Cup in St Petersburg.

Russia win Synchronised Swimming team gold

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With Russia also winning the duet, thanks to five-time Olympic gold medallist Svetlana Romashina and Svetlana Kolesnichenko, Ukrainian pair Marta Fieldina and Anastasiya Savchuk secured a duet place by taking second.

Japan, as hosts of Tokyo 2020, are also guaranteed a place in both competitions.

So who will take the next two berths in the team and duet?

Ukraine to win battle for second?

Fieldina and Savchuk will be hopeful of taking silver in Gwangju, but gold looks out of reach.

In the European Champions Cup duet free competition, they were 4.5 points behind Romashina and Kolesnichenko who posted a massive score of 97.4667.

For Romashina, it was her best score since returning to action in April after taking more than two and a half years off to have a baby.

At the last FINA World Series event in June, Fieldina and Savchuk underlined their status as the best team outside of Russia by winning the duet free with 93.9000, almost three points clear of Italy's Rio 2016 finalists Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro, with Ona Carbonell and Paula Ramirez of Spain in third.

World Series Budapest podium (L-R): runners-up Linda Cerruti and Constanza Ferro, winners Anastasiya Savchuk and Marta Fiedina, and third-placed Ona Carbonell and Paula Ramirez (photo courtesy of FINA)

Also in Budapest, Ukraine's team took victory by just over two points from Spain with Canada third.

While there are golds in both the duet technical and duet free in the World Championships, the Olympic Games sees the two disciplines combined with the free carrying greater weight.

The solo is no longer an Olympic event, but it will be hotly contested in Gwangju with Fieldina carrying Ukraine's hopes.

Japan's Yukiko Inui, winner of two bronze medals at Rio 2016, has shown she can challenge for a medal with some strong performances this season.

Japan's Yukiko Inui competes in the 2019 World Series event in Tokyo

Carbonell has been in medal contention for the past decade, helping Spain to free combination gold back in 2009.

The 29-year-old, who won two medals at London 2012, took two solo silver medals two years ago in Budapest.

But Kolesnichenko - a team gold medallist at Rio 2016 - is a hot favourite to take her world title tally from 13 to 17 in Gwangju.

She will be bidding to repeat her four golds from Hungary where she took two in the solo and two in the duet.

Svetlana Kolesnichenko on her way to winning the solo technical at the 2019 World Series event in Tokyo

USA and their 'robot reboot'

It's the biggest stage yet for the United States' artistic swimmers as they bid to make Tokyo 2020.

The USA have not qualified for the team event since Beijing 2008 but Carbonell's former partner, 16-time world medallist and four-time Olympic medallist Andrea Fuentes, is determined to end that drought.

A podium finish appears unlikely, but they have an ace up their sleeve in the form of an innovative routine unlike anything seen before in artistic swimming.

Olympic Channel has been following the US synchro team as they get to grips with a robot dance created by Instagram's Mr Robot, Chadd Smith.

And where better to show off a move based on robot movements than in Korea and Japan?

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There is no better test of their ability to handle the pressure than a World Championship, although this is not D-Day for Fuentes and her American charges.

Their big test will be the Pan American Games in Lima at the end of the month where the winners will claim a ticket for Tokyo.

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Maltsev bids to add to medal haul in mixed event

Since the introduction of the mixed duet in 2015, Aleksandr Maltsev has won two golds and two silver medals.

He will be competing at his third World Championships in Gwangju with a third different partner, Mayya Gurbanberdieva, and double gold in his sights.

The pair perform the Argentinian tango in their technical routine, with 24-year-old Maltsev admitting to FINA after their victory in the Tokyo World Series that it was a tough dance to perfect.

"What we especially struggled with was to express tango in the water. In every competition we try to show not only high technical proficiency but also our artistic side to the audience. It is important to popularise this sport." - Aleksandr Maltsev talking to FINA

Aleksandr Maltsev and Mayya Gurbanberdieva compete in the 2019 FINA World Series event in Tokyo

There are now four team disciplines, one up on Budapest two years ago.

In addition to the technical and free routines, there is the free combination and - new for 2019 - the highlight routine.

Russia could have their work cut out in the latest event having finished second to Spain at the European Champions Cup.

The eastern Europeans won the free combination in 2015 but did not compete in 2017 with China taking gold ahead of Ukraine in the Hungarian capital.

China on their way to gold in the free combination event at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest

Competition Format

There are 10 artistic swimming events in total in Gwangju.

Eight of these are one of each of free and technical routines across solo, duet, mixed duet and team (eight competitors) categories.

The other two are the free combination and highlight routine where the teams comprise 10 swimmers apiece.

Technical Routines

All routines must follow the required elements. The time limits per routine, including 10 seconds for deck movement before entering the water, are two minutes for Solo, two minutes 20 seconds for Duet, and two minutes 50 seconds for Team, with an allowance of plus or minus 15 seconds for each.

Free Routines

All free routines can perform listed figures without any restrictions on music, contents, or choreography. Time limits per routine, including 10 seconds for deck movement before entering the water, are two minutes 30 seconds for Solo, three minutes for Duet, and four minutes for Team, with an allowance of plus of minus 15 seconds for each.

Free Combination

At least two parts of all Free Combination routines must have fewer than three competitors with two parts involving all 10 competitors. There is a time limit of four minutes, including 10 seconds for deck movement, with an allowance of plus of minus 15 seconds.


All 10 team members must be involved in the performances of the Required Elements. There is a time limit of two minutes and 30 seconds, including 10 seconds for deck movement, with an allowance of plus or minus 15 seconds.

Source: FINA

Schedule - all times are Gwangju local (Korean Standard Time = UTC+9)

Friday 12th July

11:00-13:30 Solo Technical - preliminaries
16:00-19:00 Duet Technical - preliminaries

Saturday 13th July

11:00-12:30 Mixed Duet Technical - preliminaries
19:00-20:30 Solo Technical - final

Sunday 14th July

11:00-14:30 Team technical - preliminaries
10:00-20:30 Duet Technical - final

Monday 15th July

11:00-14:30 Solo Free - preliminaries
17:00-18:30 Mixed Duet Technical - final
19:00-20:00 Highlight routine - final

Tuesday 16th July

11:00-14:30 Duet Free - preliminaries
19:00-20:00 Team Technical - final

Wednesday 17th July

11:00-14:00 Team Free - preliminaries
19:00-20:30 Solo Free - final

Thursday 18th July

11:00-13:00 Free Combination - preliminaries
19:00-20:30 Duet Free - final

Friday 19th July

11:00-12:00 Duet Mixed Free - preliminaries
19:00-20:30 Team Free - final

Saturday, 20th July

17:00-18:30 Mixed Duet Free - final
19:00-20:30 Free Combination - final
20:45-21:45 Exhibition Gala