Maureen Croes, FINA Media Committee Member

The world Artistic Swimming community met today on the virtual stage as the first-ever FINA Artistic Swimming Virtual World Series event was broadcasted on both FINA TV and USA Artistic Swimming’s website. Christina Jones and Bill May, winners of the first-ever gold medal for the Technical Mixed Duet event at a World Championships (Kazan 2015) hosted this creative, fun, and very exciting, yet professional, hour-and-a-half long production.

Today’s event showcased some of the world’s best Artistic Swimming athletes performing their routines in beautiful facilities across the world. This production captured the feeling of excitement from a live competition, with Christina and Bill explaining the technical aspects of the routine and providing the viewers with fun facts about the athletes and routines. Although the routines were taped weeks ago, the athletes have waited for their scores and to see each other’s performances until today.

Bill May and Christina Jones (USA) ©Getty Images

While it was different for the world to watch athletes perform their routines in their home pools without the traditional live audience, for the athletes the difference was even greater. Spain’s Emma Garcia (Mixed Duet) shared that “The mood changed a little when we put on our suits and make-up, but it was difficult to stay in the competition mood.” USA’s Lindi Schroeder (Duet) felt more in control than she normally would in a new pool when there is chaos all around. But according to Schroeder, nonetheless she missed the audience: “I like to compete and perform for the judges, other teams and a crowd. I had to remind myself that people will watch and judge our swims. Colombian Duet partners Estefania Alvarez and Monica Arango indicated that before performing their routine, they missed the excitement of the other athletes on pool deck. “That excitement, the tension that brings the adrenaline was missing. Strangely, the moment we walked onto the podium and the music started we were in competition mode and we felt excited.

During today’s broadcast, five events were contested. First was the Technical Duet event, which included participation from Sweden, Belarus, USA, San Marino, Colombia, Portugal, and Liechtenstein. The gold medal was won by the host of this leg of the ASWS -- USA’s Anita Alvarez and Lindi Schroeder swimming to the music of Fur Elise. This was the first time Alvarez and Schroeder performed this routine which has been written during the pandemic in a backyard pool. Their score: 83.4588.

With a score of 80.4657, Kseniya Kuliashova and Aliaksandra Vysotskaya from Belarus claimed the silver medal with their Swarm of Bees routine swam to the song “Green Hornet” from the movie “Kill Bill”.

The pair, for whom this was their first International Competition in the Duet event, showed great endurance maintaining their energy and speed throughout the routine on the very fast paced music.

The bronze medal in the Technical Duet was won by Lichtenstein. Lara Mechnig and Marluce Schierscher, who have been swimming together for six years, received a 79.2052 for their tribute to the Indian culture. Mechnig and Schiersher’s routine finished with a very powerful hybrid, but overall, the routine showed the pairs strength, endurance, and level of comfort and trust as duet partners.

Lara Mechnig from Lichtenstein ©Getty Images

Next was the Mixed Technical Duet, event featuring two couples from Spain and one from the Star Synchro Club of South Korea. The Spanish duo Emma Garcia and Pau Ribes have been performing this routine “Witch Hunters”, inspired by a Festival of Witches in their village in Spain, for one year. The three-year pair’s previous best finish was a fifth-place finish at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju 2019. The silver medal was claimed by Jaejun Byun and Hyobin Kim from Star Synchro Club, South Korea, with a 70.5517, portraying a love story between a ballerina and a bad boy. Byun is the first Male Artistic Swimming athlete for South Korea at an International Competition.

Spanish duo Emma Garcia and Pau Ribes ©Getty Images

Solo events are fun and interesting to watch as it gives each athlete the opportunity to showcase her or his unique strengths and feelings. In the Technical Solo event, USA’s Nicole Dzurko scored a 79.6044, good enough to make her debut in an International Senior Competition a gold-winning one. Dzurko’s routine, swum to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, reflects her belief as to what the world needs right now amidst social issues, the global pandemic, racial disparity, and the lack of unity.

Kyra Hoevertsz, representing Aruba, earned a 73.9357 and a silver medal as she performed her very new routine “Tango” for the first time. Hoevertsz indicated that she is looking forward to competing in more editions of the World Series, she is especially hopeful that in person events will soon be happening again.

“This performance is the starting point, but I hope that I will soon get more opportunities to improve my scores.”

Performing a routine themed “Africa” and scoring 69.6834, the bronze medal went to Sweden’s Clara Ternstrom. Ternstrom, who has been representing Sweden as a soloist since 2014, shared that representing Sweden is both a pride and responsibility.

“I welcome this opportunity to proof to the rest of the world and to the young artistic swimmers in Sweden that Swedish Artistic Swimming is growing in popularity and gaining in spirit.”

At the 2021 FINA Artistic Swimming World Series, the Male Solo was added for the first time. This addition is a positive development, encouraging male participation in Artistic Swimming. Unlike the technical elements in the Mixed Duet and Duet, in the Solo event the technical elements are the same for the Female and the Male events. Spain’s Fernando Diaz Del Rio Soto, while not correctly completing the fifth required technical element, was able to just outscore Jaejun Byun for the gold medal. Diaz Del Rio Soto’s routine, which scored 68.5487, was choreographed and complemented with music to beautifully highlight his elegance and flexibility. Star Synchro Club’s Byun, who swam his routine to the very popular song “Hello” by Adele, his favorite artist, took the silver medal with a score of 68.4956.

There was only one entry for the final event, the Technical Team, and the team from Belarus performed their “Funny Skeletons” routine to earn 80.4160 points and the gold medal. The result for this team from Belarus is quite remarkable since all eight athletes are Junior athletes competing the required Senior Technical elements at a Senior International level Competition for the first time.

Tomorrow, the first leg of the ASWS will continue with six competitive events and the Gala event. Tune in at 11:00 am ET to see who will win the medals for the Free Female and Male Solo, Free Duet & Mixed Duet, Free Team, Free Combo and Highlight events.