Spectators Embrace Aquatics Championships in Hungary

(ATR) Passion for sport shown by fans at the 2017 FINA World Championships surprise the sport's executive director.

(ATR) The passion for sport shown by spectators at the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships surprised the sport’s executive director.

"Their interest is something unbelievable," Cornel Marculescu tells Around the Rings. "I’m talking about synchronized swimming now, which was also a fantastic venue, you see at 11 o’clock in the morning, 28-29 degrees, full stands and people there who enjoy synchro."

With the exception of some diving at Duna Arena, the stands were mostly full at all venues. Spectators screamed whenever a Hungarian swimmer got on the blocks – and throughout the whole race – with the success of Katinka Hosszu, Hungary’s "Iron Lady", giving them much to cheer for.

With the crowd wielding plastic "thunder sticks," the din was deafening.

"The whole facility is shaking from the yelling," said Team USA swimmer Madisyn Cox, who took the bronze in the 200-meter individual medley behind Hosszu, "but it’s so great to see a country get behind one swimmer that much."

She took advantage of it, too. "Sometimes I close my eyes and pretend it’s me," she said.

Hungarians were also passionate about water polo until the very end, when Croatia beat the home team 8-6.

Trial for New Olympic Events

The men’s 800 meters (won by Gabriele Detti of Italy), the women’s 1,500 meters (won by Katie Ledecky of the United States) and the mixed 4 x 100-meter medley relay (won by Team USA in world record time) will join the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020.

The mixed freestyle relay, however, did not make the cut.

"Television has requested one more day (of swimming)," Marculescu tells ATR. "The mixed relay becomes interesting because it’s something different, something we can keep the interest in the sport," he said.

Although FINA would have liked to add 50-meter races in men’s and women’s backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke, the IOC chose the longer races instead, which bring parity to men and women in the pool.

"There were too many medals," Marculescu said of the 50s, which would have added six new events. For the first time, aquatics will have more events than track and field – 49 to 48.

"We’ll see what happens in Tokyo 2020," Marculescu said.

Medal Count

Team USA won the medal count with 46 total medals – 21 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze. China was next with 30 (12 gold, 12 silver and six bronze), followed by Russia with 25. Host country Hungary won nine total medals, two gold, five silver and two bronze.

The bulk of the U.S. medals came from swimming with a U.S. record of 38 – 18 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze. Caeleb Dressel won seven gold medals, equaling Michael Phelps in 2007.

Digital Impact

FINA said it expects to have final numbers for its digital interactions during the championships in the coming week from all of its online platforms.

By the end of competition, FINA’s official online platforms had a total following of 375,946, with 299,431 on Facebook, 51,709 on Twitter and 24,806 YouTube subscribers.

Written by Karen Rosen in Budapest.

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