Spanish synchronised swimming has always been characterised by creative, storytelling routines, revolutionary suits and breathtaking choreographies. Enchanted castle filled with skeletons, rock concert filled with bewildered fans, silvery shining water world – just to mention a few of the most truly memorable performances from recent years by the Spanish team. The music accompanying the team routines are usually filled with sound effects, and they like to use melodies from contemporary Spanish composers too, such as Salvador Niebla or Rafael Imbert) using traditional motives of the Iberian heritage, flamenco, fandango or fado.
The swimsuits always match the performance, while their head accessories are the most unique among the field, too. If the coreography requires, they dive in the pool in hooded jumpsuits, or wear caps mimicking braided Afro hairdos. All these seemingly little details serve to harmonise the performance and fascinate the audience, the referees and judges more and more.
There is another undeniable character of Spanish synchro: one of the most famous Spanish athlete, model, lingerie line owner, Greenpeace activist and icon, Gemma Mengual. She made the sport harmonic, practice an art, the body an instrument of expression, and the discipline in Spain bloom. Mengual had ease at performance, special flexibility and elasticity (making almost all physical boundary breaking choreographies possible) and unique athlete and acting qualities.
Her one of a kind talent was discovered by Ana Tarrés, they created then together what today Spanish synchronised swimming represents. It was a long way since 1997, when they started preparing for the FINA World Championships held in Barcelona in 2003. The Event in front of home crowds brought them enthusiastic sponsors, reliable supporters and of course, finally World medals (bronze in solo and duet, silver in combination). However, five years later Gemma Mengual reached even higher at the 2008 European Championships in Eindhoven: she collected all four possible gold medals in the contested four events – she is still a record holder with this result.
The golden era of the winning duo ended in 2012 for various reasons. Gemma retired from professional sport and had a baby, while Ana Tarrés lost her job at the Federation. The Spaniards were represented at the 2016 Olympics only in the duet event – to the great surprise of all – the team did not qualify for the Games. Past and future harmonised in the duet event (Gemma Mengual-Ona Carbonell), but despite the great comeback, the unique and breathtaking coreography was only enough for the disappointing fifth place.
Gemma Mengual now once again supports the national team from the poolside, while Ona Carbonell is a strong podium pretender in solo for Budapest 2017. Just like Mengual, Ona too has an extremely high technical knowlegde paired with convincing and breathtaking artistic performance. Also, she is just at that ideal age when can take advantage of her physical fitness and feminine sensuality with the most efficiency.
In duet, Ona Carbonell is still searching for her ideal partner: since 2012 she performed together with Andrea Fuentes, Marga Crespi, Paula Clamburg, Clara Camacho, and Gemma Mengual most recently. Her partner in duet will be Paula Ramírez at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest this summer.
The Spanish are currently building the future and preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in synchro under the guidance of Esther Jaumá and Gemma Mengual. The national synchro selection roster at the moment consists 70% of junior aged swimmers, and the captain, Ona Carbonell is the ‘veteran’ with her 27 years.
In synchronised swimming, nine different medal events will be contested over seven days of competition at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest (solo technical, duet technical, mixed duet technical, team technical, solo free, duet free, team fee, free combination and mixed duet free). From July 15, finals will be held from 11:00 am.