Five things to know about the final artistic swimming Olympic qualifying event

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 18: Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe of Great Britain compete during the Synchronised Swimming Duet Free, preliminary round at the 2017 FINA World Championships on July 18, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 18: Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe of Great Britain compete during the Synchronised Swimming Duet Free, preliminary round at the 2017 FINA World Championships on July 18, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The Olympic Games Artistic Swimming Qualification Tournament is taking place over four days in Barcelona, Spain, in conjunction with the World Series' Super Final.

It’s the last chance saloon for the artistic swimmers hoping to compete at Tokyo 2020, taking place in 2021. The Olympic Games Artistic Swimming Qualification Tournament 2021, which is taking place in conjunction with the annual Super Final of the Artistic Swimming World Series, will take place in Barcelona from 10-13 June.

Twenty-six countries are set to compete for the final Olympic berths in the two Tokyo 2020 Olympic disciplines – team and duet. Right now, seven teams and 12 duets have formally earned a quota through continental championships and their finishing position at the 2019 Gwangju World Championships.

The qualified teams are Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Japan, Russian Olympic Committee, and Ukraine. The duets are Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russian Olympic Committee, South Africa, Spain, and Ukraine.

This competition, therefore, will determine the final three teams and 11 duets that will head to Japan this summer.

At the Super Final, an event introduced in 2019 – but which has only had one edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic – swimmers will compete in the duet, mixed duet and teams. For this year’s edition, all national federations were invited to participate to continue earning points towards the final rankings. The only requirement is the participation in at least two World Series events, including the Super Final.

Here are five things to look out for at the four-day event.

Spain's inclusive routine

The host's are performing an inclusive and innovative artistic swimming routine, which combines Japanese and Flamenco music, while sharing a message through sign language.

Ona Carbonell, Spanish team member and two-time medalist at London 2012, told "It is beautiful to use the sport as a way of, in this case, getting people to know sign language. In our case, as artistic swimming is a subjective sport and it has that artistic part, we can use that to also say something, to raise awareness in some way."

The team are one of the favourites to secure an Olympic berth at the event.

Ona Carbonell on inclusive new routine: It’s something that has never been done before

The Spanish artistic swimming team has prepared a unique choreography that mixes flamenco, Japanese music, and sign language.

GB in contention

Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe are the only artistic swimmers aiming to fly the flag for Team GB at Tokyo 2020. The pair, who have trained eight hours a day, six days a week for the best part of 10 years in order to get to this point, have a Flamenco-inspired routine, which should go down well in the Catalan capital.

They will also compete a Vampire-themed routine, which they also performed at the European Championships last month, scoring a personal best mark of 84.9244. Competing in the duet event on Saturday and Sunday, the pair will be watched closely by their mothers, who also performed together as a duet in artistic swimming for Great Britain. Isabelle's mother Karen is also Swim England artistic swimming manager, so she will be keeping even more of a keen eye on her charges.

Team USA’s robot routine

US head coach Andrea Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medallist with Spain, has created an innovative robot-inspired routine to her team of young performers.

Fuentes' former Spanish team-mate, double Olympic medalist Ona Carbonell, was impressed with the routine when the young squad debuted the performance at the World Series event in Barcelona in March last year, and thinks it will be enough to help take America to Tokyo 2020 after a 12-year absence from the Games. have been with the team throughout their journey.

Against the odds: Meet the USA artistic swim team targeting Tokyo 2020

What does it take to break 12 years of disappointment? Olympic Channel got an exclusive invite to go behind the scenes with the U.S. artistic swimming team to find out. This is the story of how a group of young hopefuls, a star choreographer, a four-time Olympic medal winning coach, and a group of mums are synchronising together with the Tokyo 2020 Games as a goal.

Favourites to qualify in team event

The hosts are one of the favourites to qualify for Tokyo 2020 of the seven nations competing for a team place. They will be up against France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Republic of Korea and the United States, with only the top three teams with the highest combined scores, from the technical and free programmes, advancing to Tokyo.

As well as their highly anticipated technical routine detailed above, the Spanish also have a spectacular free routine, visualising Darwin’s Evolution Theory, for which they scored 91.2333 when they debuted it at the European Championships in Hungary last month.

Italy are also likely to qualify, and are competing for the first time since the 2019 world championships after missing last month’s European Championships due to bouts of COVID-19 and short-term injuries. However, the core of the team has not changed since those world championships, and they are the most experienced team in the field and the only nation of the qualifiers to have had a team at Rio 2016.

The fight for the final spot will likely come down to France, Greece and the United States.

Duelling duets

Twenty-five nations are entered in the duet events with GB and Israel near locked in for one of the tickets to the Games.

Rio 2016 Olympians Austria’s Anna Maria and Eirini Maria Alexandri are also favorites to advance to Tokyo, the sisters full of confidence after winning two historic bronze medals in Budapest, with big scores of 89.4592 in technical and 90.8667 in free.

France, meanwhile, will rely on twins Charlotte and Laura Tremble, who last competed in March 2020. Along with their ‘Amazon’ free duet routine, they will also unveil a new technical programme, portraying the emotional topic of violence against women.

Hoping to become Olympic debutants, Belarus' Vasilina Khandoshka and Daria Kulagina, and more twins, Netherlands' Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer, also look likely to qualify for Tokyo 2020. 

But there's a bit of a bun fight for the final places between the likes of Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany, which will make for a lively, emotional event.