Budapest, Hungary (AP) — Not everyone gets a medal at the world aquatic championships. It only seems that way.
A plethora of titles are being handed out along the banks of Danube, far more than are available at the Olympics, though there are some downright puzzling events.
Anyone up for some solo synchronized swimming?
“I get many questions online,” Russia’s Svetlana Kolesnichenko said through a translator, after capturing the gold medal Wednesday in the solo free event. “The question is: What is the synchronicity in (solo) synchronized swimming? My answer would be: It’s a different type of work. When you synchronize to the music, you have your own vision, your own interpretation of the music.”
Synchronized swimmers have far more medal opportunities at the every-other-year world championships than they get at the Olympics, where duet and team are the only events.
In Budapest, there are nine gold medals on the line — including a pair of mixed events in which women and men compete in tandem.
The Olympics are women’s only.
Spain’s Ona Carbonell noted the huge discrepancy between the number of medals that regular swimmers have a shot at during the Olympics compared with their gelled-up counterparts.
It was 32-2 at the Rio Olympics — and swimming is getting three more events at the 2020 Tokyo Games with the addition of the men’s 800-meter freestyle, the women’s 1,500 free and a 4×100 mixed-gender free relay, which will give men and women a chance to compete together for the first time.
“Obviously, we would like for the Olympics to be like the world championships, to have more medals,” Carbonell said. “Swimming gets a lot of tests, and we only get two.”
The world championships are packed with events that don’t get a chance to shine on the Olympic stage, such as mixed team diving and downright brutal 25-kilometer open water race, which will be held Friday. Not to mention the relatively new sport of high diving, a thrilling spectacle that will be conducted along the banks of the Danube from a 27-meter tower — roughly 90 feet high — right across the river from the stately Hungarian parliament building.
The worlds not only give more athletes a chance to pad their resume. They also serve as a testing ground for events that might find their way onto the Olympic program someday, especially in the quest to appeal to more young people.
Rest assured, there’s plenty of Olympic lobbying going on during the 17-day championships. Take mixed team diving, which features one man and one woman from each country, performing dives off both the 10-meter platform and the 3-meter springboard.
“I like that they’re bringing these events in,” said Krysta Palmer, who teamed with David Dinsmore to take a bronze for the United States — the country’s first diving medal of the meet. “Diving is a very individualized sport. Having these kind of events really brings the team together.”
Dinsmore said team diving fits perfectly with the International Olympic Committee’s goal to bring a more youthful approach to the Summer Games. In all, there are 13 diving events at the world championships, compared with eight in the Olympics.
“It’s awesome to see how far this sport has progressed,” Dinsmore said.
Then there’s open water swimming, which was added to the Olympic program in 2008 and features just two events — 10-kilometer races for both men and women. At the worlds, there are gender-specific events covering 5, 10 and 25 kilometers, as well as a team event that features both men and women.
Seven shots at a medal.
“It’s definitely the hope that one day they will add more at the Olympics,” said American Haley Anderson, making her plea Wednesday shortly after a fifth-place finish in the women’s 5k — an event she won at the 2015 world championships. “I would love to see the 5k and 25k at the Olympics, not to mention the team relay, which is so exciting.”
The 5k team event probably has the best shot at getting on the Olympic program, while the 25k hardly seems like the sort of TV-friendly race that would win over the IOC, taking around 5 hours to produce a winner.
Now that’s a marathon.
“Distance swimming is a very unappreciated event sometimes,” Anderson acknowledged. “Even when you see the mile and 800 meters in the pool, they always go to commercial breaks during the event. But actual distance athletes appreciate it more. They appreciate what goes into it. Sure, everyone loves the sprinters and those 50s. But it’s good when you hear people saying: ‘Oh my god, I watched your 10k. It was so exciting. There was so much going on it.’ That’s what we want to hear.”
At the world championships, at least, they all get a chance to shine.