Olga Kamardina, FINA Correspondent in Russia

For the Russian swimmers their luck was definitely in as the sixth leg of the FINA Swimming World Cup hit its midst in Kazan this Saturday. In the spirit of the first competition day, they bagged 6 out of 12 golds on offer, however the events yielded a few surprises, posted by the mighty favorites of the circuit. Denmark, Italy, Belarus, Germany and Austria made their entry in the run on medals, while the public saw one World Cup record improved in the men’s contest.

Individual medley: another win for Hosszu, another silver for Rapsys

The afternoon program of the Competition Day 2 started in the best possible way, with a thrilling final in the women’s 400m medley. Two of the top 3 experienced their second tour to the podium of Kazan. At first, favorites Katinka Hosszu and Zsuzsanna Jakabos launched the 1-2 scheme, which already proved successful 4 times before in the 2019 World Cup, however, the finishing spurt brought diversity and changed the flow repeating scenario of the last year's edition. Since the win of Hosszu never looked in danger: the fastest in the morning and the pace-setter of 2019 (4:30.39), proved expectations of the crowd to extend the number of her win to the marvelous six, it was for the part of her compatriot to be challenged by the other competitors, the most successful of whom turned out to be Claudia Hufnagl of Austria. Swiming to her joy, she took her time although at one moment breaking the last 50 she noticed Zsuzsanna Jakabos closely, in front of her. She thought it was a chance and took it flying, and pocketed silver alongside slicing her personal best by 3 seconds, 4:44.66. The big disappointment of the day came from Mikkayla Sheridan of Australia, who did not manage to check-in at the medal board, finishing fourth in 4:47.89. The fifth went to the Russian representative in the final, Veronika Andrusenko in a time of 4:48.81.

“I feel amazing, because I did not expect it, - commented on her first ever silver in the World Cup Claudia Hufnagl. - Usually I swim 200 fly, and I was just having fun now, not thinking of anything else. At one moment I saw Zsuzsanna next to me. I tried to work till the end, I neve gave up, I and was rewarded accordingly. I am very motivated by the silver piece and very much wish it is not the last”.

Another unpredictable, but at the same time, a well-deserved win highlighted the men’s 200 individual medley. The action took place well in the middle of the pool, with lanes 2, 4 and 5. Philip Heintz of Germany was dominating all the way through to the final buzzer, surviving the challenge of the "successful touch" against the mighty Danas Rapsys. The golden time was 1:59.11, and the the Lithuanian placed second 0.86 seconds adrift. Keita Sunama from Japan completed the top 3, snatching the third medal piece for his nation in Kazan, 2:00.76.

“The last 50 meters were very very tough, - confessed Philipp Heintz, the 200m IM race winner. - I felt with the skin, that Danas is coming closer and closer, and thought "let it swim! let it swim!". The plan was to go very fast, as fast as I could, keeping 1:50.something somewhere at the back of the mind. I think, I have done everything right. I will definitely go to Doha, and now I feel I still have some room to improve my result”.

A new face atop of the men’s longest distance

A very undecided final saw Russian champion Ilia Druzhinin coming out as a winner of the 1500m Freestyle, touching home in 15:10.73. His lonely finish took place 14 seconds before his next challenger arrived home, which was his compatriot and friend Iaroslav Potapov, 15:24.71. In fact, Potapov one step downgraded, comparing to the last year, when he was a winner, which was a result of his failure to keep on the lead he possessed after the first half. Woomin Kim of Korea came third, mapping his team in the medal ranking, confidently landing on a time of 15:30.93.

“Of course, I feel proud of the win I got, - exclaimed emotional Ilia Druzhinin after the finish. – The time is quite OK for the time-being, I mean I did not have special preparations towards the World Cup in Kazan. I am sure, this win will encourage me clock even faster seconds at the National Championships in a few days, which will be a qualifying event to enter the Russian team”.

“I am disappointed with the time I showed, - stated Iaroslav Potapov. – I thought I could be faster, or at least could challenge my previous personal best of 15:01.00. As you see, I failed. I never give up, so I can see now how much job is ahead of me to become a better competitive swimmer in the future”.

Morozov hits his 6th backstroke sprint title, chased by Andrew

The podium of Kazan in the men’s 50m Backstroke fully resembled the one of Berlin, on the Leg#5.

In lane 2, Russian star Vladimir Morozov departed very fast, which eventually let him secure a gold win, the sixth to go in the circuit of the World Cup, in 24.55. His usual companion Michael Andrew habitually touched home second, in 24.60 (almost approaching his top result at the recent Worlds, which was 0.02 faster) – the scheme they have followed previously four times this season. Grigory Tarasevich of Russia outdone himself to land on the bronze, slicing some 0.30 seconds comparing to the previous match-up.

Winner of the prelims and yesterday’s champion in 200 back Daniel Martin of Romania could not surprise though sitting on fourth and improving his personal best in the close battle against another Russian duo (Sergey Fesikov and Dmitrii Maltsev).

“It’s a great swim, - stated Michael Andrew of the USA. - It’s nice to beat 24.60 again. Vladimir and I on top, really nice to win it. I think, it was like last year, but the time is now quicker. The competition was very strong. Partially, because the Russian nationals is the next week. I am going to Doha, hope to win there too, I start travelling tomorrow night. I love racing. I feel the more I race, the faster I get”.

On the contrary surprising turned out to be the nature of the longer women’s race of the same stroke. Australian Emily Seebohm was well expected to win, pursued by the last year’s champion Kira Toussaint, who swam to the podium in the shortest back distance the day before, but that did not happen. Another Australian Kaylee McKeown entered the game on gold on the last 50m, pushing down both two favorites and earning the chance for Maria Kameneva of Russia, swimming in lane 5. Kameneva did not miss it, happy on the touch. The most disappointing finish registered the Dutch, who was also a two-time FINA Swimming World Cup's winner, and who was also a mere 0.02 behind the awardees' three.

“I came here to swim a lot, and did not set such ambitious goals ahead of me, - said Kaylee McKeown of Australia. – I did not track opponents swimming. I realized I am a win when I touched the wall only and still could not believe I was the first to come”.

Breaststrokers in action

In the absence of Women's 100m Breaststroke leaders, who had been setting pace and tempo for the 5 previous SWC's Legs, the door was left open for the new faces in the competition. Italian Ariana Castiglioni did not miss her point, feeling she was doing the race pretty well indeed. She chose the right strategy for the final, accelerating the second half of the distance, and clocked a solid time of 1:07.59. There were a number of other able swimmers in the chasing glory. Alina Zmushka of Belarus was one of them, playing pace-maker for thef first 25m. She could not keep up tempo long, running out of gas soon, though staying competitive for the bronze in 1:08.11. Mariia Temnikova of Russia prolonged her Kazan’s winning story, 1:07.67, adding silver to the 200m gold she earned the day before.

“This is my first long course competition this season, and I am a bit surprised with the fact I won, - said Italian Ariana Castiglioni. – This is also my first win at the World Cup ever, so Kazan is a lucky place for me. Tomorrow I will swim 50m, hope I will also be competitive in this very fast race”.

In the men’s 50m part, Yasuhiro Koseki of Japan upgraded his bronze of the Leg#1 to gold, touching home in 27.07 seconds after the start’s signal. World’s reigning vice-champion Felipe Lima of Brasil went one down comparing to his last year’s win, in 27.11. The bronze was grabbed by the Dutch Arno Kamminga, completing the 2019 SWC edition’s full set in a time of 27.15.

“I am happy, - shared his emotions Felipe Lima. – I think the next week-end in Doha will definitely be better. World Cup is a special competition. There are amazing competitors here. I am really happy to be a part of this. I came from a long season, I competed at the FINA World Championships, then at Pan-Amarican Games, I took a break, for practice. I had a long way to Russia. I was travelling from the USA, so I could still feel the jet-leg”.

Russians keep on winning

In the absence of 3 possible favorites, who came to Kazan, but due to some reasons were out of the contest (Cate Campbell, Katinka Hosszu and Michelle Coleman), Russian Darias Ustinova and Mullakaeva sealed a 1-2 win in the women’s 200m Freestyle final. The stopped watch within 0.20 seconds (1:59.23 – 1:59.43), followed by Zsuzsanna Jakabos, who challenged her stamina through the second final within 10 minutes, in  a time of 1:59.45.

“Actually I am a bit sad about the results, - explained her sad smile the Hungarian beauty. - I have been very close to the silver in both today’s races (the first of them, 400m IM, finished 7 minutes before the start of 200m Freestyle). That’s it for today. I try to forget all these and am looking forward to tomorrow. 2 races within 10 minutes is a very good training. It’s a very good training for a very long season. After Kazan I go to Doha, then I go to Glasgow for European Championships”.

However, the main disappointment of the evening was that Russian Vladimir Morozov could not hit his 6th to go win in the 100 men’s free. He produced a good start, but very soon was overtaken by Vladislav Grinev, which did not miss his gold target. The holder of the worlds’ bronze sliced Morozov’s World Cup record by 0.10, 47.78. Vladimir Morozov finished second, in a time of 48.15, slightly slower than in the previous legs. Yesterday "fly winner" Mikhail Vekovishchev landed on the bronze, meeting no major challenge from victorious Magyar Szebastian Szabo, 48.41 to 49.32.

“It happened so, that 100m was more difficult for me than 50m, - confessed Vladimir Morozov. – The time is not bad, roughly the same as I have been posting all the way long in 2019. This is the first time I miss gold, though I feel it is also an achievement. There is nothing bad loosing to the fastest Russian freestroker Vladislav Grinev”.

Surkova defeated Campbell

Cate Campbell had been overtaking Michelle Coleman and occasionally Jeanette Ottesen all the way through in the women’s 50m fly at the Swimming World Cup -2019. Here in Kazan there appeared another face on the podium, which surprised everyone in the pool and herself as well. Russian Arina Surkova attacked from behind and touched the wall in a time of 25.62, improving her season’s best and the National record, which she set by herself before. Campbell recorded her second silver in 2019 in a time of 26.08, which pretty enough to beat Ottesen leaving her up to the bronze in 26.11.

“I am happy about the win, - said Arina Surkova of Russia. – I could never imagine I am fit for taking gold now. At the moment we are training hard, and it’s not always easy to swim. However, I had a good feeling of the water yesterday, I was not bad in the prelims today, which gave me a hint that I can be quite competitive in the final as well”.

All podium in the Men’s 200 Butterfly was again Russian. Home hope Daniil Pakhomov went one up comparing to last year’s edition, however he could not approach his silver winning time of 2018. Messing at start, he did not give a chance to his chasers, and secured on top in 1:57.85. Vladimir Kudryashov produced an incredible finish to snatch silver, 1:58.49, followed by Petr Zhikharev in 1:58.51.

“I am happy about the win, but the time could have been much faster, - confessed the winner. – Like a number of swimmers here, I have been to China, to the World Military Games, and all in all the World Cup in Kazan is the 8th competition to go. I am a bit tired. Hope, I will return a good shape soon as the major events of the season are still to come”

Mixed relay favored hosts

The second day in Kazan concluded with the mixed 4x100m free relay, and another (the fourth) victory of the day for the Russian team. Formed by Vladislav Grinev, Mikhail Vekovishchev, Mariia Kameneva, and Daria Ustinova, which was the only newcomer comparing to the FINA World’s, where the quartet stopped the clock at 3:27.85. The silver went to Australia in 3:31.19, whose joker, vice-champion of the recent Worlds and winner of 3 mixed relay golds Cate Campbell, was not enough to beat the mighty hosts. Belarus, setting pace in the first half of the mixed relay's race, did not keep to top speed and landed on the bronze in a time of 3:31.85.

Summery. After two competition days of the FINA Swimming World Cup #6 the team overall sees Russia keeps on the high tempo with a good golden bag of 11 piece and 25 overall. Hungary and Australia go after, on 2-1-4 and 2-2-2 repsectively, as the number of gold winning nations in Kazan extended to marvelous 9.
Competition day 3 will finish the program of the swimming week-end in Kazan on 3 November, 2019. The ultimate 12 sets of medals are on offer, including 3 freestyle, 2 fly, back, breaststroke and individual medley races and a cherry on the cake 4x100m mixed medley relay.