No Phelps or Lochte for the first time this century
Worlds staged in five iconic locations in Hungary
Event features high velocity high diving competition
It’s been almost a year since the Rio Olympics but here comes a chance to catch up with the stars of the pool.
Hungary will host the 17th FINA World Championships, or World Aquatics Championships, July 14-30, for six disciplines: swimming, water polo, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, diving and high diving.
Here’s five reasons why you shouldn’t miss the event.
No Phelps or Lochte
These world championships will be the first major international competition since 2000 without either 23-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps or six-time Olympic gold medallist Ryan Lochte of the US.
Although the 31-year-old Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals, retired from the sport after the Rio Games, he hasn’t stopped training and recently announced he will be racing a Great White Shark for Discovery’s Shark Week.
Lochte, 32, is still serving a 10-month ban, which ends at the end of the month, for his role in an alcohol-fueled episode at a gas station in Brasil during the Rio Olympics with three teammates.
Although he’s not allowed to compete in the pool – and lost a number of lucrative endorsement deals – he has since taken part in the American version of “Dancing with the Stars.”
The Hungarian capital Budapest and the city of Balatonfüred, on Lake Balaton, will play hosts to the biggest sporting event the eastern European country has ever staged.
Some 2,500 athletes will be competing in more than 200 events over a period of 17 days at five iconic venues. Hungary has a long and rich swimming tradition, so expect large and enthusiastic crowds cheering on their local heroes.
“We have a lot of water in Budapest and Hungary,” FINA’s Miklos Borsa told CNN Sport’s Christina Macfarlane.
“Hungary is a country of waters; we have lakes, we have rivers, we have everything. We want to show it to the world, not only those who come to Budapest but to the spectators as well.”
After Mexico dropped out as hosts, Hungary stepped in, building the main venue for the world championships – the brand new Dagály Swimming Complex in Budapest – in less than two years.
This state-of-the-art arena, which will stage the swimming and diving, has two Olympic-size pools and can accommodate as many as 12,300 spectators.
The water polo will be held at the historic Alfred Hajós swimming complex on the Margaret Island. Named after its architect, who was also Hungary’s first Olympic gold medal winner, this 7,000-seat venue has been home to the mighty Hungarian water polo team since it was first built in 1930.
The squad, winners of three world championship titles and a record nine Olympic gold medals, will be trying to make amends for finishing outside of the medals in the past two Olympics.
Synchronized swimming will be staged in a temporary pool by Heroes’ Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site located next to the City Park ice rink, and in close proximity to Vajdahunyad Castle.
High divers will be able to take in views of Budapest’s famous Parliament building when they compete alongside the river Danube by Batthányi Square. And finally, open water swimming will be held off the shores of Balatonfüred, in Central Europe’s biggest fresh-water lake.
“All the venues are sold out,” added Borsa. “Altogether we’re expecting 300,000 spectators.”
New stars, old legends
With Phelps and Lochte both absent, who will step up to become swimming’s next big thing?
Look out for whoever wins the 200 meter individual medley, an event Lochte and Phelps have dominated since the 2004 Athens Games.
Can an American not named Phelps or Lochte keep the streak of seven consecutive world championship titles for the US alive?
With four-time London 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin missing from the event because of two shoulder surgeries at the start of the year, all eyes will be on four-time Rio gold medallist Katie Ledecky on the American team.
Hungarian veteran swimmers Laszlo Cseh and Katinka Hosszu, nicknamed “The Iron Lady,” will be looking for home glory.
British diving super star Tom Daley will compete on the 10m platform in Budapest as he tries to make amends for missing out on the Olympic final in Rio, having clinched bronze in the synchro event with partner Dan Goodfellow.
Daley won his lone individual world championship title in 2009 in Rome on the 10m platform when he was just 15 years old. Can he repeat the feat one more time?
High velocity diving
The sport of high diving, which made its debut at the world swimming championships in Barcelona in 2013, has evolved from cliff diving.
With a 27m platform for the men and a 20m platform for the women, this is not for the faint-hearted.
Divers can reach speeds of up to 90 kilometers-per-hour and in the case of the men will have a free-fall of close to three seconds.
This means divers will try and enter the water feet first instead of arms because of the impact. It’s a high-risk sport, illustrated by the fact there will be at least two rescue divers present in the water to help in case of an emergency.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to dive from 27 meters, roughly the same height as a nine-story appartment building, here’s defending world champion Gary Hunt of Britain last year in Denmark:
World records are set to fall
Although this is a post-Olympic year, and some of the big guns are missing, historically swimming world records have been broken at this stage.
A year on from the London 2012 Games, six world records were set at the world swimming championships in Barcelona.
In 2009 in Rome, an astonishing 43 world records tumbled after swimmers were allowed to compete in polyurethane swim suits in what has since been dubbed the “Plastic Games.”
Soon after, FINA banned the suits. Nine world records fell at the worlds in 2005 in Montreal, while six world marks were set in Fukuoka, Japan a year after the 2000 Sydney Games so it’s highly likely we will be in for some exciting races at the Dagály Swimming Complex.