USA Shines at 19th World Championships

by Alyssa Jacobs, USA Artistic Swimming

The 2022 FINA World Championships wrapped up on Saturday in Budapest. The event saw USA athletes compete across nine categories representing the stars and stripes spectacularly. For the first time since 2009, USA Artistic Swimming brought home all single-digit finishes.

In solo, Anita Alvarez mesmerized the crowd with both her technical and free solos. She earned a career-high score in technical solo with an 86.2807 which  secured her a sixth-place finish, the best for USA since 2007. Her fiery free solo earned her a seventh-place finish. It is worth noting that Alvarez has faced what seemed like limitless obstacles since her return to the pool after Tokyo. Due to a severe injury that led to surgery, she was only able to compete these solos once before the World Championships. Her poise and tenacity as the soloist for USA was on full display in Budapest.

In duet, Alvarez and Megumi Field paired for the first time this season to their ‘1944’ routine choreographed by Anna Voloshyna in honor of the current crisis in Ukraine. Their synchronization despite limited practice time together was extremely impressive. This, paired with their technical foundations, helped them improve one standing from the preliminary round to end in seventh place. This technical duet finish marks an almost 2.5 point improvement from 2019. In free duet, Natalia Vega paired with Field to end in 9th place with an 87 even. Both of these finishes represent the best standings for USA at World Championships since 2007.

Notably, Field, at just 16 years old, played an important role in this year’s World Championship. She competed in four total categories, including both duets, in her first season competing exclusively with the senior national team. Her growth and performances mark a bright future for artistic swimming in the USA.

Kenny Gaudet and Claudia Coletti represented USA in both technical and free mixed duet in a category that saw the highest participation to date since the inclusion of the discipline in 2015. With big shoes to fill after Bill May filled the role for three straight Championships, Gaudet held his own and proved that he would carry the torch. Gaudet and Coletti earned two fifth place finishes as the youngest pair in the top-5.

In technical team, the crowd-favorite ‘Smooth Criminal’ routine had a few minor mistakes in prelims that were fixed for finals. Their improved performance earned USA an 86.9907 and a sixth-place finish. In free team preliminary, USA athletes executed a solid debut of their ‘I Am Water’ routine. Having only worked on it for a few months, the debut showcased a great jumping off point for the team to surpass the accomplishments of the viral Robot routine. As a result of their efforts and the innovative artistic impression in the routine, USA moved past Mexico for an eighth place standing. Unfortunately, Alvarez, the flyer in most of the lifts, was unable to perform in the final round and the team had just 30-minutes of practice time to adjust the routine with alternate Yujin Chang stepping in. Still, the squad finished in 9th place and finished the category with their heads held high. Finally, the cavewomen highlight closed out the weekend with a fifth-place finish and a score of 87.8667.

The competition was extremely successful for USA and certainly provided many challenges for the team to work through. Team USA is leaving Budapest more united and more motivated to work toward the ultimate goal of Olympic qualification for Paris 2024. The squad will see a few departures as three athletes head to college and new talent will join the team. With a new Olympic cycle comes new figures and technical routines will be adapted to meet these new requirements. Additionally, the coaching staff is energized to work within the new scoring system to creatively craft routines that maximize USA’s potential. As one chapter closes, another begins and there is certainly much to be proud of for the season that the 2021-2022 national team wrote.

For full results, visit FINA’s website HERE.

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