PHOENIX, Arizona, July 19. THE 15th FINA world championships kicked off just a few hours ago with an exciting opening ceremony inside the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain. Here's a photo the event organizers posted on Twitter with all the lights in the arena turned off and volunteers holding a translucent fabric over the pool in the opening minutes of the ceremony. The remainder of the ceremony I'm sure will have people talking.
Tomorrow morning, competition gets underway in four of the six aquatic sports. The men's and women's 5K open water swims will take place in the Moll de Fusta harbor and feature the defending gold medalists from 2011. Thomas Lurz won the men's 5K race in Shanghai, while Swann Oberson won the women's race. After a day off, open water resumes on Monday with the men's 10K swim and the chance for Spyridon Gianniotis to defend his world title, or for Ous Mellouli to back up his Olympic gold medal with his first world open water championship. Diving will feature the finals of the women's three-meter synchronized springboard on Saturday and the men's synchro platform on Sunday. In 2011, China won all but one diving event, and with the world starting to catch up, the Chinese could be hard pressed to repeat that outcome this year.
Earlier today, FINA announced the cities that will host the 2019 and 2021 world championships. Gwangju, Korea, will host the 2019 event, and Budapest, Hungary, will run the 2021 edition. This will be the first time worlds has taken place in either country. Gwangju will have a trial run on hosting a major event with the 2017 World University Games taking place there, while Budapest is no stranger to hosting big meet. The Hungarian capital has hosted numerous European swimming championships and will host the 2017 junior world championships.
The Speedo sectional championships continue in the United States, this week, and last night we saw national age group records set by the Scottsdale Aquatic Club in the 200 free relay in Portland, Oregon. In the women's race, Victoria Toris, Samantha Fazio, Hannah Holman and Amy Bilquist posted a 1:44.53, breaking the age group records in the 15-16 category and 15-18 category. In the men's race, Ryan Hoffer, Nicholas Magana, Kenneth Stirling and Bradley Dorsey posted a 1:33.75 to beat the 15-18 record.
Kyler van Swol and Derek Toomey arrived home in Minneapolis from the World University Games on Wednesday, and on Thursday they were roped into relay duty at the sectional meet at their home pool on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Van Swol won a bronze medal in the meet's final event, the 400 medley relay, and even though Toomey didn't collect any hardware, his top finish was a respectable fifth in the 50 freestyle. They had no time to rest on their laurels, swimming legs on the 400 free relay for Minnesota Aquatics last night that won by four seconds.
Swimming World is bringing you coverage of all the sectional championships throughout the next few weeks, and you can read recaps of them on our USA channel at swimmingworld.com.