Sarah Chiarello

No one really knew what to expect, even less so the athletes. With the first-ever world championships mixed duet competition set to take place in six weeks in Kazan everyone has but this question in mind: what would the brand-new routines be like?The four duets of Russia, Colombia, Turkey and host Italy that performed in the test event at the Stadio del Nuoto in Rome from June 13-14, 2015 provided a mouthwatering foretaste of what can be expected next July in the capital of Tatarstan. On the opening night, 20-year-old Aleksandr Maltsev, the one and only male synchro swimmer in Russia, performed brilliantly with partner Darina Valitova, 2014 European champion, to earn the gold in the duet technical routine with a total 87.314, besting Italy and Turkey.

When the Russian pair appeared on the pool deck, Maltsev looked like a soldier in swim briefs, immediately setting the tone for their military-themed routine. Like female synchro swimmers, he had gel in his hair. 

The first figure was a lift where Valitova, only 18, powerfully carried her male partner out of the water. Totally mind-boggling!

"We wanted to show something original," explains the national team's new recruit.

Maltsev was 7 when he first dipped a toe in the water among other fellow synchro swimmers in hometown Saint-Petersburg.

Building a choreography for a mixed duet is totally different from an all-female one. For Valitova, having a male partner was not easy at first, but she soon found her marks in the new pair: “I really like it now.” 


Mixed duet in Rome. Photo credit: Giorgio Scala

On the upcoming home World Championships, the Russian prospect adds: “This first mixed duet competition is really important; we want to show what we are capable of. We know that other countries will have strong duets, too.”

Home favourite Manila Flamini and Giorgio Minisini finished a close 86.515 points behind the Russians.

"Tonight’s competition was one of the most important in my career," says the 19-year-old Minisini.

I have always swum among girls therefore I was already used to work with them,” he continues. The local hopeful started synchronised swimming at 6, following his older brother, also a synchro swimmer. 

As in the regular duet, partners strive to be perfectly identical, as much technically as artistically. In the mixed duet, the difficulty lies in the “adjustment of the height and the movements”, Minisini explains.

Tonight was very different from the previous competitions because it was very new. I felt a bit emotional and excited because it was the first time that we were doing this together”, Flamini says.

"In the end, we succeeded in delivering an excellent performance. We finished 0.799 behind Russia, the world’s strongest nation in the sport. Therefore we hope to get a medal in Kazan, at least in the technical programme" she continues.

In Kazan, Minisini’s long-standing dream to perform at the top level will come true. U.S. synchro star Bill May, his childhood idol, is among the biggest challengers in the event. 

Turkey’s Gokce Akgun and Yagmur Demircan completed the podium with 72.204 points.

 


Photo credit: Giorgio Scala

Back home, the mixed duet is already a hit, says Demircan: "The public loves it so much; they think it’s nice to have a man and woman in the water. It’s different and really interesting."

Colombia’s Jahir Galeano and Laura Marquez took fourth, scoring a total 71.666.

On Day 2, Italy and Colombia presented their mixed free routines. Minisini paired with Mariangela Perrupato to take out the event with a total 87.667. 

According to Perrupato, the mixed event will have a very positive effect on both the general public and the future of the sport: “The enthusiasm for this event is already visible. We have done a lot of interviews and photo shoots. Surely, the sport will be followed more and not only in countries where it is a tradition, like in Russia or Spain.

Teammate Manila Flamini also sees a bright future for the sport: "One day, we could even have men performing in team events, like it is already the case in Japan. The lifts and throws would be even more impressive. This is something that could develop in all countries in the world." 

 

Men that have been practicing the sport for many years, some from a young age, will eventually have the opportunity to shine on the big stage in Kazan. “The level will surely be high, also in the mixed event,” the Italian swimmer concludes.


Italian mixed duet. Photo credit: Giorgio Scala

With the new addition to the World Championships programme, the 2015 edition in Kazan will present to the world the fresh faces of men’s synchronised swimming. And from the little that has been seen in Rome, one can but expect a breath-taking show next month in Russia.

Sarah Chiarello, Rome.

RESULTS

Mixed Duet Technical Routine: 1. VALITOVA Darina / MALTSEV Aleksandr (RUS) 87.314; 2. FLAMINI Manila / MINISINI Giorgio (ITA) 86.515; 3. AKGUN Gokce / DEMIRCAN Yagmur Ceylan (TUR) 72.204; 4. GALEANO Jhair / MARQUEZ Laura (COL) 71.666

Mixed Duet Free Routine: 1. PERRUPATO Mariangela / MINISINI Giorgio (ITA) 87.667; 2. GALEANO Jhair / MARQUEZ Laura (COL) 71.933