18th FINA World Aquatics Championships Opens Friday; Swimming Begins July 21

By Sharon Robb

GWANGJU, South Korea, July 10, 2019—The 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships will make its debut in Korea on Friday.

The biggest FINA event, held over 17 days, will feature competitions in all six aquatic disciplines–swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo competing for 76 gold medals.

With the slogan of “Dive Into Peace” the world championships will offer a sneak preview of what’s to come at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Several international athletes are competing for Olympic berths.

The 18th edition of the FINA World Championships has attracted the largest number of athletes in event history with 2,639 from 194 countries.

With 82 athletes, host South Korea will have the largest contingent of athletes including 29 in swimming. South Korea will make its debut in open water swimming and water polo at worlds.

Swimming, the most popular event, will not begin until July 21, at the Nambu University Memorial Aquatics Center. The U.S. team leads in medals with 208 gold medals in 17 world championships.

China is expected to dominate the diving, that begins Friday. Divers will compete for 13 gold medals.

High diving, made from heights over 20 meters, made its debut at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona and is attracting a strong fan base around the world. Male divers will jump from a 27-meter platform and women will dive from 20-meters. Only two gold medals are available. In 2017, Steve LoBue of Pembroke Pines won gold. High diving will be held July 22-24 at the Chosun University High Diving competition venue.

More than 1,097 athletes from 47 countries will compete in synchronized swimming. Ten gold medals are up for grabs. Russia is expected to dominate.

Nearly 400 swimmers from 60 countries will compete in open water swimming held at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park Open Water swimming venue. The July 13-19 events featuring 5K, 10K and 25K distances will award seven gold medals.

Water polo is the only competitive team sport at worlds. Hungary, Italy and the U.S. will be playing for gold in the men’s and women’s tournaments, July 14-27.

PREVIEW COMING UP NEXT WEEK: South Florida will be well-represented in pool swimming at worlds with South Florida Aquatic Club’s Olympic veterans Nguyen Vien of Vietnam and Alia Atkinson of Jamaica along with several other swimmers from around the Florida Gold Coast.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Cunha Wins Third 25K Open Water Gold Medal; UM Diver Dinsmore Advances To Saturday Final At FINA World Aquatics Championships

By Sharon Robb

Budapest, Hungary, July 21, 2017—In the last and most grueling of six open water races, defending champion Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil won the women’s 25K open water race for her third world title on Day 8 of the 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships Friday at Lake Balaton.

Cunha, who has frequently trained in South Florida and won the Fort Lauderdale Roughwater event, finished in 5 hours, 21 minutes and 58 seconds, a two-second margin of victory.

She is only the second woman to win three world golds. Dutch swimmer Edith van Dijk won four.

Cunha also won gold at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai and 2015 in Kazan. Cunha has two silver medals and four bronze medals from past world championships. She has made the podium in every individual open water event.

“When it starts, I think of nothing, but toward the end I knew I was the only one in the leading three that had done the 25K course before,” Cunha said. “So I know the pain that would arrive at the end. This experience made the difference.”

Olympic 10K gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands was second in 5:22:00. Arianna Bridi of Italy took the bronze in 5:22:08.

American Becca Mann, a former Clearwater (CAT) swimmer, was seventh in 5:27:06.

France continued its dominance in open water with Axel Reymond winning the men’s 25K by just 6/10ths of a second.

Swimming for more than five hours, the Frenchman defeated Matteo Furlan of Italy (5:02:47).

“When there are 200 meters left, all you think about is touching the board,” Reymond said.

Russian Evgenii Drattcev took bronze in 5:02:49. American Chip Peterson was fifth in 5:03:43.

There were 44 finishers in the race. Five were unable to finish the race. Warm temperatures were also a challenge. The water temp was 75 degrees.


University of Miami redshirt sophomore David Dinsmore finished fourth in men’s 10-meter platform semifinals to qualify for Saturday’s final for Team USA.

Dinsmore, the NCAA national platform champion as a freshman, scored 483.10 points to qualify for his first worlds final.

Dinsmore is ranked behind Aleksandr Bondar of Russia (509.10), Tom Daley of Great Britain (498.65) and Chen Aisen of China (488.55) and will be in the medal hunt on Saturday.

“It’s really exciting,” Dinsmore said. “Last time I had a good meet but there was tough competition and it didn’t work out. Especially this year after the Olympic year, I wanted to come out and dive as best I could and things worked out.”

At the 2015 World Championships, Dinsmore finished 15th in the semifinals. Earlier in the week, Dinsmore earned a bronze medal in the mixed 3-meter/10-meter team event with Krysta Palmer.

Fort Lauderdale’s Jordan Windle finished 26th in the 10-meter prelims in his first worlds competing in an individual event.

Olympic gold medalist Shi Tingmao led China to a one-two finish in the women’s 3-meter springboard final. Shi, the defending champion and Monday’s 3-meter synchro winner, finished first with 383.50 points followed by teammate Wang Han (359.40) to capture China’s ninth consecutive gold medal in the event and seventh in 11 diving events in Budapest. Canadian Jennifer Abel took the bronze medal with 3:51.55 for the second worlds in a row.

“I need to work harder in order to achieve a higher score and win more gold medals,” Shi said.

Chinese divers have won 20 of the last 21 Olympic and world titles in the 3-meter springboard since 1986.

The last two diving finals are scheduled for Saturday.


Russia won the team free title winning its sixth gold medal. Twelve teams were in the final. Russia has been the title holder of the team title since 2007. Russia scored 97.300 points. China took the silver and Ukraine took bronze.


The U.S., Italy, Hungary and Greece all advanced into the women’s quarterfinal round. Italy has won three straight games and earned an automatic berth.

In the men’s tournament, Croatia reached the quarterfinals as expected. Croatia has beaten the U.S., Russia and Japan.


In the medal tally, China leads with 16 total medals including seven golds, Russia has 13, Italy had 8 and France has 7. The U.S. has 5 medals including only one gold.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 17: Ous Mellouli Wins Men’s Open Water 10K Gold Medal

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 17: Ous Mellouli Wins Men’s Open Water 10K Gold Medal


August 10, 2012

Ous Mellouli of Tunisia, an open water swimming rookie, won the gold medal in the men’s 10K open water swim becoming the first athlete to claim medals in the pool and open water at the same Olympics.

It was Tunisia’s first and only medal of the London Olympics.

Mellouli broke away from a small pack of swimmers in the lead group in the sixth and final lap at Hyde Park’s Serpentine to win in 1 hour, 49 minutes and 55.1 seconds.

Last week Mellouli won a bronze medal in the 1500-meter freestyle and in 2008 the gold medal in the 1500. He overcame shoulder and elbow problems and a virus.

“I don’t think this has ever been done before,” Mellouli said. “It was possibly one of the toughest things to do. The 10K hurts, you’re in pain, once you hit a wall, you just keep pushing when you hit a wall again, you keep pushing.

“Nothing compares to this,” Mellouli said. “There’s no way I can top this achievement.

“The conditions were definitely to my advantage,” Mellouli said. “It wasn’t really rough and it wasn’t too cold. I come from the Mediterranean so that was a big worry for me. This was the easiest of the three open water races I’ve competed in.”

At times, Mellouli would flip over and swim backstroke to see what swimmers were gaining ground on him. At one point, he was ahead by 13 seconds.

“As a country, we’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years,” Mellouli said. “I hope that every Tunisian will turn on their TV, look at my success, be happy. I hope that this medal brings them some joy and some pride.”

Mellouli trains at Southern Cal with Dave Salo. He gave Salo, USC open water coach Catherine Vogt and former USC coach Mark Schubert for his success in training.

Germany’s Thomas Lurz, 33, who took bronze in Beijing, won the silver in 1:49.58.5.

Canadian and first-time Olympian Richard Weinbeger, 22, took the bronze. It was Canada’s 17th medal of the Games and Canada’s first open water medal. He just 5.2 seconds behind Mellouli.

“It was just brutal,” Weinberger said. “It’s easier to be up front and have no draft and be on my own. It’s better to put energy out pushing the pace rather than fighting. I’m still working and gaining speed and endurance.” 

American Alex Meyer, 24, coming back from a broken collarbone and swimming in honor of his good friend, Fran Crippen, was tenth in 1:50.48.2, less than a minute out of the medals. Crippen’s parents called Meyer the night before his race to wish him good luck.

Meyer had a good start and was in fourth place after the first few laps but got caught up in a pack of swimmers, never regained his momentum and faded quickly.

“It’s definitely been an emotional time for me,” Meyer said.

Crowd favorite Benjamin Schulte, 16, of Guam, finished nearly 14 minutes after Mellouli in last place. Fans stayed to watch him and applauded loudly when he finished.

The U.S. swimming team, including Haley Anderson’s open water silver medal, finished with 16 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals, its best medal performance since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.


China’s Qiu Bo and Lin Yue were the top two qualifiers followed by Germany’s Sascha Klein after the men’s platform preliminaries at the Aquatic Centre.

The top 18 advanced from a field of 32 divers after the six rounds of diving into the semifinals on Saturday.

Qiu Bo, 19, the reigning world champion, led with 563.70 points. Lin Yue, 21, was second with 532.15 points, putting China in a position to claim two more medals including a seventh gold in diving.

Klein finished with 525.05 points and his German teammate Martin Wolfram was fourth with 496.80 points.

After two rounds, the favorites were looking nervous. Nick McCrory was ninth, world silver medalist David Boudia, tenth, Tom Daley, 15th and defending Olympic gold medalist Matt Mitcham, 16th.

Daley, a former world champion, ended up finishing 15th. McCrory qualified eighth with 480.90. Mitcham finished ninth while Boudia just squeaked in at 18th. “It was a tough competition,” Daley said.

Lin Yue of China was the only diver to score over 100 points on one dive.

Water polo

Italy will play Croatia, the only undefeated team remaining, for the gold medal on Sunday.

Italy, looking for its fourth Olympic title, upset World Cup champion Serbia, 9-7, in the semifinals at the Water Polo Arena. Italy’s Valentino Gallo and Amaurys Perez each had  three goals.

Croatia, which has never won the gold medal, beat Montenegro, 7-5, in the other semifinal.

Three-goal hero Felipe Perrone led Spain into Sunday’s fifth place playoff game with an 8-7 victory over the U.S. men’s team. The U.S. will not play Australia for the seventh and eighth places.

Synchronized swimming

In front of a crowd of 17,000, defending Olympic champion Russia performed a near-perfect four-minute routine to top a field of seven teams and clinch the gold medal with 197.030 (technical, 98.100 and freestyle, 98.930). It was the Russians’ fourth consecutive gold medal.

Olympic Notes

Track and field athlete Bryshon Nellum was selected as Closing Ceremony flag bearer for the U.S. Olympic team on Sunday. Nellum was voted by Team USA members. The 400-meter runner was told by doctors in 2008 that he would never run again at a world-class level. Through perseverance and dedication, Nellum proved them wrong. “I’m humbled by this incredible privilege,” Nellum said. “Four years ago I wasn’t sure I’d ever run again, and now I’m leading Team USA into the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games.”…Belgian swimmer Fanny Lecluyse, 20, was sent home before the end of the Games after returning to the Athletes’ Village drunk at 3:30 a.m.

Olympic Tweets

“It’s nice if you make the Olympic Team. It’s better if you do well when you get there. You must have that goal to do that.”—U.S. Olympic men’s coach Gregg Troy

“Every time you go on deck, you change the life of someone, just for a moment, maybe.”—Frank Busch, USA Swimming National Team Director

“Going to repel down a mountain in the Alps tomorrow, the biggest threat to my life isn’t the mountain at this point, but dealing with mom afterward.”—Jimmy Feigen, U.S. Olympic swimmer

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


Swimming Gets Under Way Sunday At World Aquatic Championships, SOFLO’s Polyakov Competes

Swimming Gets Under Way Sunday At World Aquatic Championships, SOFLO’s Polyakov Competes

July 23, 2011


Three-time Olympian Michael Phelps has that “old feeling” back in the pool which is bad news for his rivals.

“I kind of feel like my own self,” Phelps said Saturday during a crowded press conference held the day before the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships swimming events begin at the Oriental Sports Center’s indoor pool in Shanghai.

“I have been excited and happy to be around the pool,” said Phelps, who will make his final appearance at world championships. “I am ready to compete. I feel good in the water.”

For the 14-time Olympic gold medalist, that hasn’t always been the case during a slump where he lost his signature 200-meter butterfly event three times this year, lost his motivation and fire that helped him become the all-time greatest swimmer in the world at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Now Phelps returns to China to compete for the first time since his Olympic record eight gold medal-performance rewrote history.

“I felt like you had to twist my arm to get into the pool,” Phelps said. “I was like kicking and screaming not wanting to go to the pool. This year has changed a lot. I can’t stand to lose, so I had to change something. I think I realized if I don’t show up to work out I’m hurting myself, I’m not hurting anybody else. I have to take responsibility for what I do in and out of the pool.”

Two months ago, Phelps pulled out his 14 Olympic gold medals from a secret hiding place to show his sister and looked at them for only the second time since 2008.

“In my eyes I consider myself a normal person,” Phelps said. “Everything is a stepping stone. The last two years haven’t been how we have wanted them to be but they were what they were.

“This week is going to be a big test to see what my body can handle for next year. This year I feel like we have taken some steps forward and made some progress that is going to be big for the next year.”

The 26-year-old Phelps plans to swim in seven events in Shanghai. He is entered in the 200 freestyle, 100 and 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley and three relays. He will get started with the 400-meter freestyle relay, the most anticipated event on Sunday with France, which was leading at the 2008 Olympics and Russia, which was second at 2009 worlds, looking for revenge.

Phelps and Ryan Lochte are expected to go head-to-head in the 200-meter individual medley. Lochte is the defending champion and was the top swimmer in 2010.

“I know I am definitely a better swimmer than I was in 2008,” said Lochte, who trains in Gainesville. “We’re going to put on a show. I am definitely going into the competition with some expectations.”

Brazilian Olympic and world champion Cesar Cielo, cleared to compete after a doping scandal, will compete in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives on the pool deck and from fans. Several swimmers and coaches are upset with the wrist slap Cielo received for testing positive for a banned diuretic that is used to mask other performance-enhancing drugs.

“Right now I don’t think there’s a lot of happy people around the pool,” said American Jason Lezak.

Phelps, Lochte and Lezak will be joined by Natalie Coughlin and Jessica Hardy and other veterans in addition to 16-year-old sensation Missy Franklin, who is making her worlds debut after an outstanding season last year.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s lone swimmer in the meet, Vlad Polyakov, will begin competing on Sunday in the prelims of the 100-meter breaststroke.

Polyakov is also entered in the 50- and 200-meter breaststroke. The two-time Olympian from Kazakhstan hopes to make the Olympic qualifying time in the 100 (1:00.79). He is close with a 1:01.03.

“Despite the fact that I hadn’t put in enough training before these World Championships, I have a good feeling about this meet,” Polyakov said. “I feel like I have plenty of speed and power. I just need to have every bit of it available on the day of the race.”

Unlike 2009 where the high-tech body suits were used and 43 world records were broken left and right over eight days, swimmers will return to the conventional textile suits which will not result in as many world records, if any at all.

“I think it’s great we are all back to the same suits,” said Aussie three-time Olympic champion Stephanie Rice. “It’s something that can play in the back of your mind, whether it’s a suit that you’re wearing or not wearing.”

The swimming will be televised on Sunday, 2-4 p.m., July 30, 1-3 p.m. and July 31, 1-3 p.m. all on NBC. Also Universal Sports is televising the full meet at universalsports.com. There is a feature on the website where you plug in your zip code and it will tell you which TV service is showing the world championships in your neighborhood.

Open water swimming

In the controversial final event of the open water swimming program, Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria and Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha, who trains with the Davie Nadadores, won the 25K world titles at Jinsan City Beach in a race overshadowed by concerns of the hot, humid air and water temperatures. Water temp was 90.7 degrees, above the limit.

Stoychev, 35, won in 5 hours, 10:39.8 ahead of Russia’s Vladymir Dyatchin in 5:11:15.6.

Cunha won by a body length and sprint finish in 5:29:22.9 ahead of Angela Maurer of Germany, 5:29:25. She won by just 2.1 seconds. Alice Franco took bronze.

Stoychev is the only athlete to have completed in 12 consecutive FINA open water world championship events.

“This was probably my last world championship,” said Stoychev, who was 27th in the 10K event. “I never won a gold medal from a world championship before so it never crossed my mind that I could do it today. I just want to have a rest now with water and ice.”

Said Cunha, “I am very emotional about winning the gold medal in the world championships. I’m so happy to be here.”

More than twenty swimmers did not finish the race and several were carried away on stretchers. Nearly half the men’s field did not finish. Six women were pulled out.  Defending women’s champion Linsy Heister of the Netherlands withdrew from the race along with 5K winner Thomas Lurz of Germany.

Team USA coach Jack Roach, a former South Florida coach, asked his swimmers not to compete. USA Swimming also recommended that all its athletes withdraw and the only one who chose to start, Claire Thompson, 22, who was chased down and forcibly fished out of the water for safety concerns. She was told to stop swimming by U.S. coaches. Coaches said she looked to be in distress. Haley Anderson and Alex Meyer both scratched from the 25K.

Fran Crippen’s untimely tragic death last October in a FINA-sanctioned open water 10K event in the United Arab Emirates raised awareness of the lack of safety and concerns for swimmers, but complaints from coaches and swimmers about the 25K conditions fell on deaf ears with FINA officials. Team USA wears FC initials on their warmups in memory of Crippen.

“USA Swimming felt it in the best interest of athlete safety that they not compete today,” according to a released statement. “Athlete safety is USA Swimming’s top priority. The water temperature was very near to exceeding the recommendations made by the open water commission.”

Later at a press conference, FINA officials would not listen to the criticism saying “it was a very good race.”


Wu Mingxia held off her teammate He Zi by 1.7 points to win her first world title in the women’s 3-meter springboard event and ninth gold medal and 13th overall for China’s diving powerhouse.

Wu, 25, finished with 380.85 and He had 379.15. Earlier in the week they combined to win the springboard synchro title.

“It’s not easy to win the gold medal,” Wu said. “Overall, I did better in prelims and semifinals. I overcame many difficulties in the past year. My next goal is to qualify for the London Olympics and win the gold there.”

China could complete its sweep of the gold medals on Sunday when Qio Bo competes on 10-meter platform. Only Brit Olympic champ Tom Daley could derail China’s streak.

Canada’s Jennifer Abel finished third with 365.10 points and took the bronze. She was 11th two years ago in Rome.

American 2008 Olympian Christina Loukas was fourth with 350.1 points. It was the best finish by a U.S. woman at worlds since 1994. The U.S. clinched two more spots for the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics.

“My primary goal for this meet was to get in the Top 12 to get an Olympic spot for Team USA,” Loukas said. “Today I just wanted to have fun and do my thing like I do in practice. I dove well, and I’m really happy with my performance.”

Adding to the excitement of China’s victory, was recently retired NBA star Yao Ming watching the final and signing autographs.

Water polo

Australia held on for a 10-9 victory over two-time champion Hungary in a women’s playoff match. Rowan Webster scored four goals for the Aussies who will now advance into Monday’s quarterfinals against Spain.  In other games, the Netherlands beat New Zealand, 14-6, advancing to the quarterfinals against Greece. Russia routed Cuba, 26-4 and China beat Spain, 15-6; Kazakhstan edged Uzbekistan, 14-13 and Brazil beat South Africa, 10-9. The men’s competition is Sunday with a battle for top eight positions.

Synchronized swimming

Russia completed the gold medal sweep in the sport by winning all seven gold medals offered in synchronized swimming. Russia’s eight-woman team won the final event, the team free, to give Natalia Ishchenko, 25, her sixth gold medal. She has sixteen world championship gold medals and team gold at the 2008 Olympic Games. Russia won the gold medal with 98.620 points followed by China with 96.850 for the silver and Spain took the bronze with 96.090.

Medal Count

China and Russia dominated the first half of the world championships in the medal tally. After Day Eight, China has 20 medals overall including nine gold and Russia has 13 medals including seven golds. The U.S. has two medals including one gold.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Seven: Twichell Takes Bronze For U.S. In Open Water 5K

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Seven: Twichell Takes Bronze For U.S. In Open Water 5K

July 22, 2011


U.S. open water swimmer Ashley Twichell is making a name for herself at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, China.

The Duke graduate and All-American reached the medal podium for the second time in two days after taking the bronze medal in the women’s 5K open water event on Friday at Jinshan City Beach.

Twichell of Fayetteville, N.Y. finished in 1 hour, 40.2 seconds, just 5/10ths of a second behind gold medal winner Swann Oberson of Switzerland. Aurelie Muller of France took the silver in 1:00:40.1.

“I knew it was going to be a close race,” Twichell said. “I also knew there was really a big pack behind me so I just tried to maintain the speed I had and about the last 100 meters I gave it everything I had, put my kick in and just tried to touch the finish pad as quick as I could.”

It was her second medal of the world championships. Twichell helped the U.S. win the gold medal in the 5K open water team pursuit.

“I’m more comfortable towards the front,” Twichell said. “It kind of stresses me out to be toward the back, so I just tried to stay up with the lead pack which was actually pretty big.

“I’m new to the sport so the turns are still a little rough for me, so I tried to get as good positioning as I could in the turns. Those were still pretty congested and little rough. I got a little beat up on those.”

Teammate Eva Fabian, who won the world 5K title last year in Roberval, finished 12th in 1:00:50.

Thomas Lurz of Germany won the men’s 5K race in 56 minutes, 16.6 seconds. It was his seventh consecutive 5K world title victory. Greece’s Spyros Gianniotis finished second in 56:17.4. Evgeny Drattsev of Russia took the bronze in 56:18.5.

Andrew Gemmell was the top American male with a fifth place finish in 56:24.8. Teammate Sean Ryan was 11th in 56:30.1.

“I would have liked to come away with a medal,” Gemmell said. “World Championship medals are pretty hard to come by. I came pretty close but didn’t have it at the end. It was a really rough race. That was probably the most physical race I’ve ever been in.”

Due to the safety concerns of swimmers and coaches over the water temperature, the men’s 25K originally scheduled for 7 a.m. Saturday was moved back to 6 a.m. and the women’s 25K was moved to 6:15 a.m. The Netherlands has already withdrawn its team from the field. Americans Alex Meyer, reigning world 25K champion, Haley Thompson and Claire Thompson will compete.


China continued its domination of the diving competition with its eighth consecutive gold medal at the Oriental Sports Center.

China’s He Chong won his second world title on the men’s 3-meter springboard. He, 24, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, scored an impressive 107.25 points on his final dive, a forward two and a half somersault with three twists, to finish with 554.30 points.

He is the first male diver to successfully defend his world title since Russian Dmitry Sautin did it in 2001.

“I was exhausted after the prelim and semifinal yesterday so the gold medal is really satisfactory,” He said.

Russians Ilya Zakharov (508.95) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (493.55) took the silver and bronze medals. China’s Qin Kai, in gold medal contention for most of the event until slipping on the board and missing his forward four and a half somersault badly, was fourth with 481.90. It was the first time the Chinese did not finish 1-2.

China has now won eleven diving medals and its chance to sweep the gold medals for the first time at worlds remains on track with two events remaining.

Water polo

Devon Diggle scored five goals to lead Canada’s men’s water polo team to a 13-9 victory over China and into the playoff round of the world championships. Canada plays the U.S. in the elimination round for a berth in the quarterfinals. Brazil drew eighteen penalties and had three players ejected.

Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and Italy won their groups to advance straight into the quarterfinals. Italy edged Germany, 7-6 to win Group D; Croatia beat Japan, 18-7, to win Group C; Hungary edged Spain, 12-11 to win Group A; and Serbia beat Australia, 12-9, in Group B in the 16-team tournament.

The women’s elimination rounds are Saturday.

Synchronized swimming

Natalia Ishchenko, known as “the Michael Phelps of her sport” won her fifth gold medal when she combined with Svetlana Romashina to win the duets free title.

Ishchenko, 25, also won both solo titles and was a member of the winning team. The duo also won the duets technical title.

Ishchenko now has fifteen world titles and her five gold medals at a world championships topped her previous best medal haul of four.

The duet won with 98.410 points for their routine. Russia has dominated the world competition. Russia has won all six title with the team free competition remaining on Saturday.

Taking the silver were China’s Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen with 96.810 points and Spain’s Andrea Fuentes and Ona Carbonell took the bronze with 96.500 points.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Six: USA Takes Gold In 5K Open Water Team Event, Cielo Cleared

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Six: USA Takes Gold In 5K Open Water Team Event, Cielo Cleared

July 21, 2011


Duke graduate Ashley Twichell won a gold medal in her international debut Thursday when Team USA won the 5K Open Water Team Pursuit at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, China.

Twichell teamed with Andrew Gemmell and Sean Ryan to win the 3.1-mile race in 57:00.6 minutes at the Jinshan City Beach.

“It was pretty incredible for a 5K race to come down to a single second for two teams that started 10 minutes apart,” Gemmell said. “It just shows you how tight the race was.”

Australia, with Melissa Gorman, Rhys Mainstone and Ky Hurst, finished second, just 1.2 seconds behind Team USA at 57:01.8.

“To win silver in a team event like this is a fantastic feeling and it’s something new for open water swimming which is great,” Mainstone said. “Now I know how pool swimmers feel when they represent Australia in a relay.”

Germany, with Jan Wolfgarten, 10K runner-up Thomas Lurz and Isabelle Haerle took the bronze with a third place finish in 54:44.2.

The team 5K open water event is a new world championship event this year with each of the 17 teams featuring men and women swimmers.

Twichell qualified to represent the U.S. with a third place at the 2011 10K Open Water National Championships last month in Fort Lauderdale.

Twichell will also compete with the remaining U.S. open water swimmers in the 5K open water event on Friday and 25K marathon is Saturday.

World 25K champion Linsy Heister of the Netherlands has withdrawn from the 25K in protest because the water is too hot for the lengthy race. After talking to his coach and country’s medical staff, Heister said there are serious health risks and he would not feel safe swimming.

Cesar Cielo Cleared To Swim

Brazilian Olympic and world champion Cesar Cielo was cleared to swim in this weekend’s swimming competition in Shanghai. The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the Brazilian swimming federation’s warning after Cielo tested positive for illegal substances. Cielo will now be able to defend his 50- and 100-meter freestyle titles. Cielo, 26, and three other Brazilian swimmers tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic commonly used as a masking agent for other banned drugs. Cielo and two of the other swimmers, Nicholas dos Santos and Henrique Barbosa, were issued warnings and the fourth, Vinicus Waked, was suspended for one year because it was his second drug offense. FINA asked the CAS to reconsider the ruling and suspend all the swimmers but CAS denied the appeal after a six-hour hearing where Cielo presented evidence he was innocent along with specialist sports doping lawyer Howard Jacobs. The ruling has been criticized by coaches and swimmers saying it’s done a great disservice to swimming and set a dangerous precedent. “He’s obviously happy about it and is looking forward to competing,” Jacobs told reporters after the decision was announced. “The arbitrators agreed there was no intent to cheat and no performance-enhancing.” Cielo trained at the Oriental Sports Center on Thursday.


Favorite Chen Roulin won the gold medal, China’s seventh diving gold medal overall, and fifteen-year-old Hu Yadan surprised her fellow countrywomen in her worlds debut and the rest of the field by taking the silver medal on 10-meter platform. Ruolin led the prelims and semifinals and scored six tens on her final dive for 96 points and 403.65 points overall but Ruolin, the favorite, was more consistent with 405.30. Spain’s Paola Espinosa took the bronze with 377.15 points.

Former University of Miami diver Brittany Viola finished 10th with 308.05 points after qualifying 12th and earning the U.S. its first spot in the 2012 Olympics. It was an improvement on her 18th place finish two years ago when she did not final. She missed her first dive in the final but bounced back including a 72-point effort on her last dive.

“It was extremely exciting to get in the finals because that’s an Olympic spot for our country,” Viola said. “As for my performance, I know there are many improvements I can make but it’s encouraging that I can go home and focus on some things. I’m learning more and more about myself as I compete.”

Water polo

Stanford junior Annika Craig and Lauren Wenger each scored three goals to lead the United States women’s team to a 14-4 victory over Kazakhstan and into the quarterfinals. In other games, Greece edged Russia, 6-5; Spain defeated Brazil, 12-4; South Africa and Cuba tied 9-9; Australia routed Uzbekistan, 27-2; Canada beat New Zealand, 11-4; and Italy edged China, 10-9.  

Synchronized swimming

Delivering a masterful routine to the opera Carmen Suite, Russia dominated the team event and won its fifth gold medal after winning the free combination with 98.470 points. China took the silver with 96.360 points. Canada won its first worlds synchro medal when they took bronze with 96.150 points.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Five: Greek Wins Men’s Open Water Gold, American Meyer Fourth

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Five: Greek Wins Men’s Open Water Gold, Ameican Meyer Fourth

July 20, 2011


Spyridon (Spyros) Gianniotis of Greece will be making his fourth appearance at the Summer Olympic Games next year in London.

The 31-year-old won the men’s 10K open water gold medal Wednesday at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships at Jinshan Beach in Shanghai.

Gianniotis overtook Britain’s Daniel Fogg at the 1200-meter mark and defending champion Thomas Lurz, 31, of Germany in the final 100 meters and won the sprint to the finish line to finish in 1 hour, 54 minutes and 24.7 seconds, just 2 ½ seconds ahead of Lurz, defending world champion and most decorated men’s open water swimmer.

Russian Sergey Bolshakov took the bronze.

American Alex Meyer of Ithaca, N.Y. finished fourth just 8.4 seconds (1:54.33) behind Gianniotis and qualified for an Olympic berth. He is the first U.S. swimmer to qualify for London 2012.

“Alex swam smart, tough like a champion,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy, who served as head open water coach. “His success is much deserved, he has trained very well over the past year to lead up to this. Alex’s next goal is to win a medal in London.”

The moment was bittersweet for Meyer, good friends with Fran Crippen, who tragically died last October at a FINA-sanctioned 10K open water event in United Arab Emirates where safety was an issue. U.S. teammate Sean Ryan finished25th in 1:55.35.

“My main goal coming here was to make the Olympic team,” Meyer said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet moment because Fran Crippen is not here. That was a dream we shared to go to the Olympics together and it’s not going to happen now.”

Fogg, borrowing a page from Brit teammate Keri-Ann Payne, the women’s 10K winner who led from the beginning, led the field of 67 swimmers for more than 8 kilometers. Gianniotis’ strategy was to race a strong 7.5K and then turn it on in the final stretch.

“I raced a strong 7.5K and then endured the hell of the last 2.5K,” Gianniotis said. “I am a guy who waits and keeps his mind focused and maintains my strength. For me, the best tactic is to keep my energy for the sprint. It can’t be a sprint for 10,000 meters but sometimes it feels like it is.”

Gianniotis, a former pool swimmer, was 20 when he competed in the 400-meter and 1500-meter freestyle events at the 2000 Sydney Games. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens he was fifth in the 1500 and seventh in the 400 in his home country. At the 2008 Beijing Games, he competed again in the 400 and 1500 but admitted had his sights set on open water swimming.

“The older you get the better you are able to compete and to keep your mind focused,” Gianniotis said. “This is hard to do when you are younger.”

Gianniotis admitted he felt uncomfortable for the first 6K because of the water temperature. He was also frustrated with the close physical contact of the other swimmers.

“I was frustrated with the elbows and the contact while debating with myself, I can, I cannot, I can. But when I picked up the pace at the 8K I just felt stronger and I was eager to qualify for London. It was very hard for me but now I have my first gold medal in a FINA World Championship.”

The remaining Top 10 finishers were Australia’s Ky Hurst, Spain’s Francisco Hervas Jodar, Belgium’s Brian Ryckeman, France’s Julien Sauvage, Russia’s Vladimir Dyatchin and Germany’s Andreas Waschburger.

The remaining 15 Olympic spots will be filled at the 2012 Olympic 10K swim qualifier in Portugal June 9-10. One of the 15 will be reserved for an athlete from the Olympic host country.

The 5K open water team event will be held on Thursday.


University of Miami grad Brittany Viola finished 12th in the women’s platform semifinals to earn the U.S. its first spot in next year’s Olympics. She finished with 294.25 points to earn the last qualifying spot in the final. The top 12 finishers earn Olympic spots for their countries. The women’s platform finals are Thursday.

“Coach told me it was extremely close and I had no control over it,” Viola said. “I had given it everything I had and it was God’s will at that point. I was going to be satisfied no matter what place I got because I was happy with my performance. I had so much fun out there. It was amazing when I saw I was 12th. It’s a time to celebrate where I’m at with my diving.”

Synchronized swimming

Russian legend Natalia Ishchenko put up an unbeatable score of 98.550 points in the solo free competition to win the gold medal and her 14th

world title. Spain’s Andrea Fuentes took the silver with 96.520 in her first solo performance. Wenyan Sun of China took the bronze with 95.840.

Water polo

The U.S. men’s water polo team was dealt another blow with an 8-5 loss to Italy while world champion Serbia moved another step closer to the quarterfinals with a 12-5 rout of Romania. Dusko Pijetlovic scored four goals and Vanja Udovicic added three goals for Serbia. Brian Alexander led the U.S. with two goals. The Americans are 0-2 in pool play. In other games, Croatia beat Canada, 11-4; Japan beat Brazil, 13-11; Germany routed South Africa, 16-8; Montenegro edged Spain, 9-7; Hungary beat Kazakhstan, 16-4; and Australia beat China, 12-7.

Brazilian Pleads Doping Case

Brazilian Olympic and world champion Cesar Cielo pleaded his case on Wednesday before a special assembly of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to avoid a doping ban that could not only keep him out of the world championships but the Olympics as well. The 24-year-old and three other teammates tested positive for the diuretic Furosemide but received only a warning from the Brazilian swimming federation. FINA challenged the warning and now Cielo could be suspended up to two years. A ruling is expected no later than Friday. 

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP NOTEBOOK, Issue Four: Brit Wins Open Water Gold, U.S. Team Falters

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP NOTEBOOK, Issue Four: Brit Wins Open Water Gold, U.S. Team Falters

July 19, 2011


Keri-Anne Payne became the first British athlete to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics when she won a gold medal Tuesday at the XIV FINA World Championships in Shanghai.

Payne, 23, won the women’s 10K open water swim competition at Jinshan City Beach. She finished in 2 hours, 1:58.1 minutes, just 1.8 seconds ahead of Italy’s Martina Grimaldi and 3.7 seconds ahead of Marianna Lymperta of Greece.

Payne led the 6.2-mile race from start to finish in hot, humid conditions.

By finishing in the Top 10, Payne also qualified for a spot in the Olympics. The open water races will be held in Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake.

“When I am leading I have a pretty good idea where everyone is and I know that they must pass me if they want to lead,” Payne said. “It’s a weight off my shoulders. I can concentrate on training now for next year. It feels amazing. To be on that Olympic team at a home Olympics is going to be absolutely amazing.

“I couldn’t be happier right now,” Payne told reporters. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t think it will until I get home. I am very much a family girl and my sister, Janine, is in labor right now. All I can think about is her and everything is okay with the baby.”

Payne, who plans to wed teammate David Carry after the Olympics, is the 2009 world champion and Beijing Olympic silver medalist.

Americans Christine Jennings finished 13th in 2:02.24.6 and Eva Fabian, the reigning U.S. 10K national champion, was 30th in 2:05.41.09.

Feeding was a bigger problem than the heat for the U.S. team according to Coach Jack Fabian. “Obviously, some people did it well, we just didn’t do a good job with our feedings,” Fabian said.

A total of 56 athletes from 29 different countries competed with 50 completing the four-loop rectangular course. The water temperature was 86 degrees, just under the recommended limit of 87.8 degrees.

Safety was in the spotlight after the tragic death of Fran Crippen last October in a FINA-sanctioned open water race in the United Arab Emirates. Organizers used a high-tech sonar system to quickly locate any swimmer that slips out of sight below the surface.

Hungary’s Eva Risztov received a red card without warning and was ejected from the race for illegal contact with Aussie Melissa Gorman.

Others who qualified were Gorman, Cecilia Biagioli of Argentina, Poliana Okimoto of Brazil, Jana Pechanova of the Czech Republic, Angela Maurer of Germany, Swann Oberson of Switzerland and Erika Villaecija Garcia of Spain.

New Zealand’s Cara Baker fainted twice before the race and needed medical clearance before being allowed in the water. She fainted at the team hotel and again at the race site’s staging area. The 21-year-old finished 22nd.

A total of 25 women will compete in the Olympic 10K event. With the selection of ten on Tuesday, the remaining fifteen athletes must qualify at the Olympic marathon qualifying event next June (9-10) in Portugal.

Payne will also compete in the 1500-meters event and 800-meter relay.

The men’s 10K event will be held on Wednesday with Americans Alex Meyer and Sean Ryan.


China won its fifth and sixth diving gold medals in men’s and women’s diving on Tuesday.

Qin Kai and Luo Yutong dominated the men’s 3-meter synchronized final. The duo pulled away from the field midway through the six-dive competition to win with 463.98 points.

“Our rivals gave us a lot of pressure, especially for the final dive,” Qin said. “They made a few difficult dives. However, we kept our confidence and solved the problem.”

Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov of Russia took silver with 451.89 points and Mexico’s Yahel Castillo and Julian Sanchez won bronze with 437.61 points.

Americans Kris Ipsen and Troy Dumais, competing in his final worlds, were fourth with 429.06. They were in second place going into the last dive but the veteran Dumais missed his reverse 2 ½ somersault dive to drop out of medal contention. The pair won silver two years in Rome.

Earlier in the day, China’s Shi Tingmao and Wang Han finished 1-2 in the women’s 1-meter springboard final for China. Shi, 19, finished with 318.65 points and Wang 310.20. Italy’s Tania Cagnotto, coming off wrist surgery a month ago, took the bronze with 295.45.

Americans Abby Johnston was sixth and Kelci Bryant was ninth.

Water polo

The defending champion U.S. women’s water polo team bounced back from a tie with a 16-7 trouncing of Hungary. Brenda Villa, Annika Dries and Maggie Steffens each scored two goals for the U.S. In other women’s games, the Netherlands beat Kazakhstan, 13-3; Canada got goals from ten different players in a 22-6 rout of Uzbekistan; Australia beat New Zealand, 12-4; Russia beat Spain, 18-8; Greece edged Brazil, 11-8; Italy routed South Africa, 18-2; and China defeated Cuba, 19-6.

Synchronized swimming

Russia put itself in contention to win its third straight world title in the preliminary team competition. Russia, which won the technical team routine with 98.300, leads with 97.70 points. Russia now has three gold medals in synchro.

In the overall world championship medal count, China leads with 11, six gold (all in diving) and five silver followed by Russia with four.

U.S. Team Breaks Camp

The U.S. national world team broke camp on Tuesday, leaving Brisbane, Australia at 3:30 a.m. to embark on an 11-hour travel trip to Shanghai. The U.S. swimmers have been tapering and bonding in Australia for a week. The pool swimming events begin on July 24th.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Three: China Continues To Dominate Diving, No Surprises

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Three: China Continues To Dominate Diving, No Surprises

July 18, 2011


China’s diving super power won its fourth gold medal and fifth overall Monday at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai.

Wang Hao and Chen Ruolin led the field from start to finish to win the women’s 10-meter platform synchro event after countryman Li Shixin won the men’s 1-meter springboard and teammate He Min took the silver.

Wang and Chen finished with 362.58 points.

It was Chen’s third consecutive world title in synchro platform. Chen has been designated as China’s heir apparent to diving superstar Guo Jinjing, who retired in January.

“Although the 10-meter platform individual gold is also important to win, it is not my goal,” Chen said. “My goal is the London Games.”

Alexandra Croak and Melissa Wu of Australia took the silver medal with 325.92.

Christin Steuer and Nora Subschinski of Germany won the bronze with 316.29.

Americans Anna James and Mary Beth Dunnichay were 11th among 12 teams. Dunnichay was defending silver medalist with another partner in Rome in 2009.

In the men’s 1-meter springboard final, Li also led from wire-to-wire.

“You don’t know how excited I am right now,” Li told reporters.

Li’s teammate, He Min, clinched the silver on his final dive. Li finished with 463.90 points, He had 444.00 and bronze medalist Pavlo Rozenberg of Germany finished with 436.50.

American Chris Colwill of Brandon, Fla., who is deaf, finished fourth , just 9.35 points out of medal contention. It’s the best finish for the American team at worlds so far.

Colwill, a former University of Georgia diver, was out for four months after breaking his left hand in January. Colwill had four bands of wires and two screws inserted in his hand.

“I didn’t dive to the best of my abilities but coming back from a hand injury and being able to do this, I’m pretty happy about it,” Colwill said. “I know I can get top two in this event. I was really right there. I just have to polish up a few things. It was a fun battle.”

Daniel Islas of Mexico escaped serious injury when his right foot struck the board on his final dive. He landed on his back and received a no-dive from judges and finished 11th among 12 divers.

“I was just a little too close to the board,” Islas said. “I don’t know whether I will try the same dive next time.”

Polyakov, Teammates Depart For Shanghai

South Florida Aquatic Club two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov and his teammates left Astana, Kazakhstan Monday for a training camp in Shanghai for a week before the swimming events begin July 24th. Polyakov will compete in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events.

Open water swimming

The women’s 10K event will be held Tuesday in the hot water of the East China Sea. The 10K races have added importance this year with the Top 10 finishers in the event automatically qualifying for next year’s London Olympics. The final 15 places will be available for London at another qualifying event in Portugal next year. The U.S. team got a chance to acclimate for a week at Founders Park in Islamorada before leaving for China last Tuesday. They trained in the Florida Bay where temperatures reached 88 degrees. Water temperature at the Shanghai site is 84-85 degrees. The five women and three men are trying to win the U.S. its first open water world championship team title. Eva Fabian and Christine Jennings will compete in the 10K and Sean Ryan and Alex Meyer will compete in the men’s 10K on Wednesday. The 5K races are later this week.

Water polo

The U.S. men’s national water polo team squandered away several scoring opportunities in a 9-7 pool play loss to Germany. U.S. team captain Tony Azevedo scored two goals for the U.S. Germany had a 5-0 lead before the U.S. knew what hit them. The U.S. had seventeen turnovers….In other games, defending champion Serbia defeated host China, 17-5; Hungary edged Montenegro, 11-10; Spain beat Kazakhstan, 18-5; Australia edged Romania, 9-8; Croatia beat Brazil, 14-5; Canada beat Japan, 11-5; and Italy routed South Africa, 17-1.

Synchronized swimming

Russians Natalia Ischenko and Svetlana Romashina won the duet technical final. The pair led from qualification and finished with 98.200 points to take the gold. It was Ischenko’s second gold medal in Shanghai and 12th overall at worlds. China’s Huang Xuechen and Liu Ou took silver, 1.7 points behind the champions. Spain’s Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes took bronze with 95.400 points.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Two: China Wins Second Gold Medal In Diving

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTEBOOK, Issue Two: China Wins Second Gold Medal In Diving

July 17, 2011


Competing in its backyard has its advantages for China, clearly the hometown favorite during the diving competition at the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai.

China won its second gold medal on Sunday and kept its hopes of sweeping all ten diving events alive.

Qiu Bo and Huo Liang, who have trained together for only two months, were picture-perfect in the men’s 10-meter synchronized event, earning eight perfect 10s while totaling 480.03 points for the six-dive final.

It was Huo’s third consecutive worlds gold medal. He won with different teammates at the 2007 Melbourne and 2009 Rome world championships.

“I am happy to win the title because we work very hard,” said Huo, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist. “The opponents are all hard to beat, we just think about our performance. The only opponent is ourselves.”

Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein of Germany took the silver medal with 443.01 points.

Oleksandr Gorshkovozov and Oleksandr Bondar of the Ukraine won the bronze medal with 435.36 points.

Great Britain’s Peter Waterfield and Tom Daly, the platform gold medalist in 2009, were sixth. Waterfield had been doubtful to compete with flu-like symptoms during training camp. The Brits have already secured a synchronized spot in the 2012 Olympics since they are the host country. Americans David Boudia and Nick McCrory finished fifth with 420.69. They were in third place after three rounds but missed a back 3 ½ in the fifth round putting them out of medal contention.

Water polo

Defending champion and pre-tournament favorite United States women’s team struggled to a 7-7 tie with the defending Olympic gold medalist Netherlands in their opening game. The U.S. was leading 7-6 with less than three minutes left but the Netherlands tied the game at the 1:28 mark. Center forward Lauren Wenger scored three goals for the U.S. which next plays Hungary on Tuesday…Goalkeeper Rachel Riddell came up with fourteen saves to lead Canada to a 10-7 victory over Australia. It was the first time Canada, ranked No. 2 in the world, had beaten the Aussies in international games in nearly two years…In other games, Hungary beat Kazakhstan, 21-6; New Zealand beat Uzbekistan, 19-6; Russia beat Brazil, 15-4; Greece edged Spain, 10-9; Italy beat Cuba, 12-4 and China beat South Africa, 22-5…Men’s game action begins on Monday.

Synchronized swimming

Russia’s Natalia Ishchenko won her third consecutive technical solo world title. It was her seventh world title overall. She totaled 98.30.  China’s Huang Xuechen took silver with 96.50 points, earning her country’s first medal ever in the solo event. Andrea Fuentes of Spain took the bronze with 95.30 points. The U.S. top finisher was Mary Killman, placing 11th with 87.10.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com