|High Diving / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
The FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019 is just around the corner and the southwestern city is busy gearing up for the mega event, which will make Korea the world's fourth country to host all of the top five mega sporting events, also including Summer and Winter Olympics, World Cup and the World Championships in Athletics, after Germany, Italy and Japan.
The World Aquatics Championships is the biggest FINA event, featuring competitions in all six aquatic disciplines ― swimming, diving, high diving, open water, artistic swimming and water polo. This is the first time for the international swimming body's signature event to be held in Korea.
The 18th edition of the FINA World Championships is going to be the largest by number of participating athletes in the history of Aquatics Championships as 2,639 players from 194 countries registered for the entry list as of July 3. Including those taking part in multiple competitions, a total of 5,128 swimmers will vie for 76 gold medals from July 12 to 28.
|Swimming / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
Swimming is the most popular and best-known sport among the six disciplines held during the FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019.
The sport contends for speed of moving through water.
The history of swimming as a sport dates back to the 18th century when GutsMuths of Germany and Oronzio de Bernardi of Italy paved the way for modern swimming. FINA, which stands for Federation Internationale de Natation (International Swimming Federation in English), was founded in 1908 and set rules and regulations for swimming techniques and uniforms. FINA has grown to have 209 national member federations as of 2019.
Swimming competitions are held in four major styles ― freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly ― ranging from 50-meter to 1,500-meter in 42 sub-categories.
Individual events include freestyle (50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m), backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly (50m, 100m and 200m) and medley (200m and 400m). A medley features participants swimming different strokes, including backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.
Team events are relay (400m and 800m), medley relay (400m), mixed relay (400m) and mixed medley relay (400m).
A total of 2,462 swimmers from 194 countries will compete in swimming events this year. A whopping 42 gold medals are allotted for swimming, attracting the world's top players such as Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky of the United States. Another notable player is Sun Yang from China, who will join the Gwangju competition amid doping issues.
The U.S. is the leading country in competitive swimming, winning 208 gold medals at previous FINA World Aquatics Championships in total. In 2018, the U.S. swept 39 medals at the World Aquatics Championships Budapest.
The swimming events will be held at the Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center from July 21 to 28/
|Diving / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
Diving is a sport of jumping into water from a platform and performing acrobatics during the jump.
It is known to have developed from gymnastics as German and Swedish gymnasts landed in water during their practice. It was developed into a sport with a system when the first diving contest was held in 1886 and became an official Olympic sport in 1904.
The scoring considers three major elements ― approach, flight and entry. The time of take-off, height attained, time and angle of entry into the water and amount of splash are all taken into account. Divers have to perform a set of requirements such as somersaults and twists as they jump into the water and the number of rotations and revolutions are also elements for grading.
During the FINA World Championships Gwangju, divers will compete in four types of diving events including springboard diving, platform diving, synchronized springboard and synchronized platform. Springboards are 1 meter and 3 meters high, while a platform is 10 meters high.
Participating divers will compete for 13 gold medals. Currently, China is the strongest country in diving.
Diving competitions will be held at the Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center from July 12 to 20.
|High Diving / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
High diving has a relatively short history as an established competitive sport, as it only debuted at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona. However, it creates one of the most dynamic and artistic scenes during the championships as the divers jump from great heights over 20 meters.
In the World Aquatics Championships, male divers jump from a 27-meter-high man-made platform and female divers from a 20-meter-high one. This is roughly the height of a 10-floor building. There is a six-meter-deep pool, which spans 17 meters in diameter, under the platform for safety as high divers reach speeds up to 96 kilometers per hour.
Due to the nature of high diving, it is difficult for divers to practice in the exact same environment until right before the competitions.
Only two gold medals are available in high diving events ― one for men and another for women.
At the three previous World Aquatics Championships since high diving's debut, all different players grabbed gold medals.
The first man to claim the gold medal was Orlando Duque of Colombia, while the first women's world champion was Cesilie Carlton from the U.S. In 2015, Gary Hunt of the United Kingdom, the silver medalist from 2013, won the men's gold, while Rachelle Simpson of the U.S. got the women's. In 2017, Steve LoBue of the U.S. was named the best among men and Rhiannan Iffland of Australia among women.
High diving competitions are held at the Chosun University High Diving Competition Venue from July 22 to 24.
|Artistic Swimming / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
Artistic swimming is better known as synchronized swimming or water ballet as FINA officially changed its name in 2017. It combines swimming, dance and gymnastics as participants perform elaborate moves in the water with music.
Artistic swimming demands a handful of advanced water skills as well as strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry, precise timing and breath control.
Started around at the turn of the 20th century, artistic swimming began as water ballet with performers in a glass tank such as Annette Kellerman of Australia. The first synchronized swimming competition took place in the U.S. in 1939.
The sub-categories of artistic swimming events are divided into solo, duet and team depending on the number of swimmers and free combination and highlight routines based on the requirements, as athletes have to follow mandatory elements in technical routines.
During its early days, artistic swimming was a male-only event, but it became a women's sport in the 20th century, with men banned from competitions including the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
The FINA World Aquatics Championships allows male participants, introducing mixed duets for coed games. Bill May of the U.S. is the first male artistic swimmer to win a gold medal at the World Championships in 2015.
Over 1,097 swimmers from 47 countries registered for artistic swimming. Ten gold medals are available for artistic swimming at Gwangju.
Artistic swimming events are held at Yeomju Gymnasium Artistic Swimming Competition Venue from July 12 to 20.
|Open Water / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
Open water swimming is a long-distance swimming discipline held in outdoor bodies of water.
During the first three Olympic Games from 1896 to 1904, all competitive swimming was held in an open water environment. But later they went indoor and open water swimming became an official sport at FINA events in 1991 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
At the World Aquatics Championships, men and women compete in 5-, 10- and 25-kilometer course, respectively, and a 5-kilometer team relay.
Competitors are required to complete the full designated course without violating the return buoys and course-line markers. Swimmers are not required to employ a specific stroke, but the front crawl, or freestyle, is the most popular due to its efficiency.
Due to its open-air nature, athletes are required to have protective measures against the sun, wind, temperature and rain such as wetsuits. They are even allowed to eat during the competition.
Three hundred eighty-seven players from 60 countries signed up for open water events and will vie for seven gold medals.
Open water events will be held at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park Open Water Swimming Competition Venue in the coastal city of Yeosu in South Jeolla Province from July 13 to 19.
|Water Polo / Courtesy of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019|
Water polo is the only competitive team sport played in the water during the FINA World Aquatics Championships.
The game consists of two teams of seven members ― six field players and a goalkeeper ― trying to score goals by throwing the ball into the opponent's goal during four eight-minute quarters.
Water polo differs from other ball games as players have to swim to move about the pool and tread water to pass the ball and shoot on goal. The eggbeater kick is a common technique in water polo as it allows the swimmer to freely use their hands and remain stable in the water without swaying.
The history of water polo goes back to the late 19th century England and Scotland. Men's water polo has been included in the FINA World Championships since its first edition in 1973, while women's water polo was added in 1986.
European teams have shown strength in water polo, with Hungary and Italy winning the FINA Championships in men's water polo three times each. The U.S. female team has won the 2015 and 2017 FINA Championships as well as the 2016 Olympics.
At the 2019 FINA World Championships, 16 teams will compete for two gold medals, one for each gender.
Water polo events are held at Nambu University Water Polo Competition Venue from July 14 to 27.