Olga Kamardina, FINA Correspondent in Russia

Olympians and Olympic winners, Asian, European and World Champions will take part in the 4th Leg of the FINA/CNSG Diving World Series in Kazan.

The prestigious tournament shall commence on the 10th and is due to be live till the 12th of May, the fifth year to go visiting the millennium city in the heart of Russia. On its fifth arrival to the Tatars capital the elite circuit registers 64 divers from 13 FINA Members entered for the contest. Top platform and springboard specialists, including 31 men and 33 women, will distribute 10 sets of medals in individual, duet and mixed disciplines.

Let’s look ahead into the tournament and learn the must-know facts and features of the upcoming events.

 Chinese legends give way to rising compatriots

The Men’s field of Kazan will have a number of peculiarities, comparing to the 3 previous meets of the year. For the first time ever we will miss here a number of sounding Chinese names. There are 12 men on the list, and it is a pity, but the most victorious athlete in the 2019, 2012 and 2016 Olympic, 2015 world champion Cao Yuan is not attending. 3 previous legs booked Cao a marvelous lead of 6 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medals, so he can afford himself a short break in the mid-season.

Notorious 10m specialist Chen Aisen has not come to Kazan as well to leave the door to the top open for Lian Junjie, 2-time junior world champion and YOG silver medalist on the 10m platform. It goes without saying, that Chinese win here shall not come for granted. Milk is grilled to the mill of the Brits. The mightiest of them, Thomas Daley, celebrated his first gold win during 7 years, improving his season’s overall to 550.05. What a good chance for him to dig on the gold mine!

The same holds true for the men’s 3m springboard. Xie Siyi, a worthy rival for his compatriot Cao, is absent to bring more fire in a gold campaign of Kazan. Russian Olympic star Evgeny Kuznetsov may look competitive, currently ranking 4th in the overall table on 25 points. He rather badly misses victories this season, finishing at a hand to the podium not once. #3 in the chart Jack Laugher of the Great Britain is a sure bet. Olympic and world champion has already travelled to the podium 3 times, finishing as high as second one week ago in Montreal. Another top level performance shall come from Canadian Francois Imbeau-Dulac, who is better specialized on mixed and synchro trampoline diving.

 Synchro contest well packed

Driving forces of China are dazzling in synchro events.

On the upper birth all eyes will be on the Asian decorated duo of Lian Junjie & Yang Hao. World and Junior Worlds champion Lian has been diving but for a year with Hao. He used to be a rookie partner for Chen Aisen since 2017 and won mixed 3m title in Kazan FINA Worlds-2015 pairing Han Wang. No matter how young the new duo is, their chemistry is almost perfect – both at the trampoline and in the air. One recent gold of Montreal’s leg of the FINA DWS on 464.52 points is a good omen.

Chasing Chinese will be host Russian Victor Minibaev/Aleksandr Bondar, Australian Stacey Declan/Bedggood Domonic and British Thomas Daley/Matthew Lee. What a good show is ahead of us!
A broader competition shall be expected in the men’s 3m synchro springboard. 18 years old Zonguan/Wu shall prove their strength against masters, like Daniel Good fellow/Jack Laugher of Great Britain, Philippe Gagne/Francois Imbeau Dulac of Canada. Several other pairs will be eying the podium as well, including host Russians, Ukraine and Mexico.

More fire in mixed events

7 mixed duets will seek fortune in 10m platform and one less in 3m springboard events.
German Loui Massenberg/Tina Punzel have been withdrawn shortly before the start, however, they were not regarded as the major title contenders. In the absence of Si Yajie, Lian Junjie (winners of 3 consecutive meets) is not in the race on gold, which is an omission indeed. Russian hopes Nikita Shleikher and Iuliia Timishinina look promising enough to combat North Korean Hyong II Mying and Jo Jin Mi.

On 3m mixed synchronized platform, Chinese rookies Chang Yani/Yang Hao are not in the competition and their nation transfers gold hopes on young Chen Yiwen/Tai Xiaohu. The ever podium residents Thomas Daley/Reid Grace as well as Francois Imbeau Dulac/Jennifer Abel will definitely be ready to challenge Malaysia and Australia.

Promoting universality

Asian powerhouse is always seen winning and they often say one of the reasons for that highly victorious frequency is universal character of their divers. Coaches tend to train all-around skills in their athletes since childhood and never cease working. To illustrate that, Chang Yani, pretty well doing on 3m mixed synchro, world champion-2017 and reigning Asian Games winner in women’s duo with incomparable Shi Tingmao, will try her luck on 3m individual springboard. She will be a good challenge for Canadian Jennifer Abel and Maddison Keeney of Australia, wishing to add up to their bronze medals.

On the upper birth, strong dives may well be expected from Zhang Minjie, representing China (not so decorated as her compatriots Lu Wei and current chart’s leader Zhang Jiaqi, but has already proved her strength as a synchro competitor), Canadian Meagan Benfeito, who experienced all spots of the podium but for the top to obtain #3 in the overall ranking underway, and Kim Mi Hwa, disappointingly fourth in Montreal overrun by her teammate Mi Rae. European Champion-2017 Louis Toulson and Pandelela will also eye medals and ranking points.

On synchro 3m springboard strong medal contenders have come from the Commonwealth nations - Canadian Abel/Citrini Beaulieu, Australian Keeney/Smith and British Torrance/Grace, the first two looking to pack their collection of medals to a full set. All strongest, but for the supreme Chinese, will again be in action on 10m platform, including Caeli/Benfeito, already on 2 bronze and 1 silver, Cheng/Toulson - always at a hand to the podium, and of course, the major breakthrough of Montreal Kim Mi Rae/Jo Jin Mi of North Korea.

Program to follow

The three-day event kicks off in Kazan on May 10 and features 10 standard events. Competition day 1 will play out 4 synchro titles as the finals in the 10m platform and 3m synchro springboard for both men and women are due to take place. On Saturday, May 11, the medal offer includes women’s 10m platform, men’s 3m springboard as well as the mixed synchro 10m platform. To crown it all, on Sunday, May 12, the winners will be celebrated in the men’s 10m platform, women’s 3m springboard and mixed 3m springboard.