In the 5km team race, a very veteran German squad, led by Thomas Lurz (who has as much competitive open water experience as anybody), took gold by over a minute. They dominated ahead of the Greeks and Brazilians, who have been very good as a team at this meet so far.
The Americans finished 6th.
China picked up two more diving medals, including their 6th diving gold, as the new generation of their legendary diving program pushes through. 14-year old Si Yajie won the women’s platform with a score of 392.15: four points ahead of her teammate Chen Ruolin. This is an upset of monstrous proportions, as Roulin is the two-time defending Olympic champion on the 10-meter, the defending World Champion on the 10-meter, two-time defending Olympic champion on the 10-meter synchro, and four-time defending champion on the 10-meter synchro.
Ruolin’s was the first diving silver for China, who has still been the dominant team here but not quite as invincible as they looked at home in Shanghai.
Ukraine’s Yulia Prokopchuk took bronze with a score of 354.40: well behind the Chinese divers.
The lone American finalist, Tori Lamp, was 10th in the final with a score of 301.20.
In a battle to claim the group, Russia and the Netherlands wound up in a draw at 12-12 (there’s no shoot-outs or overtime in the Group stage of the tournament). That gave Russia the top seed headed into the knockout stage of 16.
The teams were incredibly evenly-matched throughout; both took around the same number of shots, had around the same number of steals, assists, turnover fouls, and field-blocks; both gave up one penalty shot, and both converted well on their man-advantage situations. Both had almost identical times of possession as well, with 16:04 going to Russia and 15:56 to the Netherlands.
If one were to watch the match, and ignore the scoreboard, they might have expected a Netherlands victory. Their goalie Ilse van der Meijden was a bit sharper, they hit on a higher percentages of shots-off-fouls (outside 5 meters), and drew fewer exclusions (especially in the crucial fourth period).
But still, they had to fight-back from a two-goal halftime deficit to draw even with the Spaniards, even though Spain was able to kill a ton of clock time in the final period (they had 4:33 of the possession time in the closing quarter).
Russia had two go for three goals, Olga Beliaeva and Evgeniya Ivanova. That’s a sharp change in their scoring load from the 32-minute matcher Ekaterina Prokofyeva. She’s played every second of the last two matches, but after scoring 10 goals combined in the first two, she was scoreless on Thursday on 5 shots. If the Russians can combine some big contributions from her, along with the more balanced scoring they saw in this match, they could be dangerous headed into the tournament (some players have said that they consider the Russians to be the best team at the World Championships).
In the other match, Spain cruised past Uzbekistan 20-4 to lock-down the second seed from Group A and knock the Dutch to 3rd. Spain picked up 6 goals from Andrea Blas, who played 22 minutes off the bench.
The Spaniards dominated this match from start-to-finish including taking 16 steals and forcing 28 offensive fouls. Maybe more importantly, they were able to earn a ton of rest for their starters; only one of them played more than 16 minutes (half a match), including goalie Laura Ester, who gave up 1 goal in the first period before abdicating to Patricia Herrera for the remainder.
That should leave Spain fresh, and with what should be a relatively-easy round-of-16 match against New Zealand, they will be incredibly confident as they head toward a likely second-round matchup against the United States.
The Australian women finished up a dominant run through Group B, where they won all three matches by combined score of 45-10 (the biggest margin of the group stages).
Like the Spanish women, the Australians were able to rest many of their starters in this match as they rolled over South Africa 16-1, with three goals each from reserve Holly Lincoln-Smith and starter Rowena Webster. South Africa arguably played their best match of the tournament against their toughest opponent, with solid defense despite the lop-sided score. Alexandra Myles scored two goals for the African champions.
In the other match of this group, the Chinese secured the second position by a 13-5 victory over New Zealand, and they two split time between their goal-keepers (and got really good performances from both of them).
China was led by Yujun Sun, who was a perfect 3-for-3, including the match’s one counter-attack goal to lead the Chinese scoring attack. Donglun Song also scored three goals, including two in extra-player situations.
The Chinese played with great passing efficiency, getting 9 assists on 10 goals that weren’t off of fouls.
So now Australia will have a first-round matchup against the tournament’s bottom-feeder Uzbekistan, with the winner earning the right to play the victor of Italy and Greece. China goes all-the-way to the bottom of the bracket to play the Netherlands in round 1, which should be a very competitive match (and probably leaves the Dutch as the favorite, despite the seeding).
The Americans finished-off their sweep of Group C by toppling the British 16-4, using backup goalkeeper Tumuailii Anae for the full 32 minutes; she had a sparkling performance, giving up only four goals in 18 shots on cage, and also sparking a counterattack goal by Kameryn Craig.
After slumping a bit against Canada on Tuesday, Maggie Steffens was strong with two goals on three shots as part of another very-balanced American scoring attack. Rachel Fattal scored a pair, Caroline Clark scored three, and Jilian Kraus, Kelly Rulon, and Craig all picked up a pair.
In total, the Americans shot a deft 61%, and only committed three penalty/exclusion fouls.
A bright spot from Great Britain was Chloe Wilcox winning all four sprints (the Americans are strong, but this is one of their weaknesses), but that was about the only bright spot they had. Ciara Gibson-Byrne was only 1-11 from the field, though she added a penalty shot to her tally as well; she also gave one up to the Americans, however.
The Canadians, meanwhile, after playing the Americans so strong, wound up in a tie with Greece in their final group match 8-8. That puts Canada as the 2nd seed out of the group based on the goal-differential (by the tiniest margin of 1 goal).
Canada came out a bit flat, but lit up in the second-half where they outscored Greece 4-2. That includes four goals from Monika Eggens, including three in the second half that allowed her squad to claw back into this match.
Greece, meanwhile, got two goals each from Alexandra Asimaki and Christina Tsoukala, but once again showed fatigue at the end of this match, just as they did against the Americans. Their five starters in the field played 21-27-27-31-32 minutes, whereas the more balanced Canadians had the energy to shut Greece down coming out of half-time. Greece also were only able to get off three shots on 12 man-up situations, scoring just one of them.
And so the Americans will play Brazil in their first round, as Canada will face Kazakhstan and Greece will play Italy in the opening round. That’s trouble for the Greeks, as Italy is another deep team (as compared to Kazakhstan, who relies on big minutes from their starters as well).
Playing in a very good group, Hungary looked dominant coming out with their third victory in an 18-7 win over Kazakhstan on Thursday afternoon. That includes bounding out to an 8-1 lead in the first period before pulling their starting goalie and spreading the playing time around to all 13 players on the squad.
This match was played wide-open, and at high speed, as the Hungarians scored 5 goals on 6 counter attack shots. They are by-far the biggest counter-attacking team in this tournament, and playing on the same side of the bracket as the defending Olympic Champions from the United States, could give the Americans fits if they each advance to the semi-finals. Those two teams faced off in a Group match at the Olympics, and Hungary played the Americans to 13-14.
Kazakhstan got three goals from Aizhan Akilbayev and another four from Assel Jakayeva. The latter highlighted where the Hungarians can be taken-advantage-of, as she scored three-of-four goals from set.
And lastly, the Italians, needing only a victory of any type to secure the second spot in the group, beat Brazil 13-5, with an 8-1 lead in the first-half. Arianna Garibotti scored three goals in just 16 minutes of play, a scoring output matched by teammates Roberta Bianconi and Giulia Emmolo. Starting goal-keeper Elena Gigli stopped 9 of 11 shots in 27 minutes of play, before passing the baton to Loredana Sparano, who didn’t have nearly the same level of success.
The top scorer for Brazil was Marina Zablith, who in 32 minutes scored two counter-attack goals (she also won three of four sprints).
Hungary now gets Great Britain in the next round, while Italy will face Greece.
All teams advance to the knockout stage, but with so many matches in a few days, seeding becomes extremely important in terms of teams’ abilities to rest their starters. The full bracket is below.
Based on how the teams have played, a Hungary-US-Australia-Russia semi-final round could be absolutely spectacular, but is far from a guarantee.
|Round of 16||Quarter-finals||Semi-finals||Final|
|29 July||2 August|
- 5th place bracket
|5–8th place semifinals||Fifth place game|
|Seventh place game|
|31 July||2 August|
Another event, another win for Russia, and another gold medal for Svetlana Romashina, as she picked up a 4th title by teaming with partner Svetlana Kolesnichenko to win the Duet Free Routine with a monster score of 97.680 – the highest of the competition so far.
China’s Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen took silver in 95.350, and Spain’s Ona Carbonell and Margalida Crespi (94.990) took bronze.
The finish order of this event was in identical order to that of the technical routine earlier in the competition, questioning the need for two separate competition (perhaps one competition with two events could be more appropriate and interesting).
What’s Up Next?
On Friday, open water swimming will be again on a break, but diving will give out awards on the men’s 3-meter springboard, where defending Olympic Champion Ilya Zakharov stunningly missed the final. That leaves the two Chinese divers, Qin Kai and He Chong, as heavy favorites. Kristian Ipsen from the United States will also be in that final.
Synchronized swimming will give out the Team free routine, which spectator-wise is the best event of the whole competition.
And in men’s water polo, final seedings for the knockout stages will be decided, with top matchups including Canada vs. the United States, Hungary vs. Australia, and Italy vs. Kazakhstan.