What you need to know for the World Aquatics Championships

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Normally organized every two years, the World Aquatics Championships are a jewel of the Olympic sports calendar. Excitement builds when it comes to the final world championships before the Summer Games, as athletes battle to qualify in swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming while giving us a glimpse of the stars potential for the Olympic Games the following year.

But this one is different. Due to a cascade of pandemic-related postponements, the World Aquatics Championships are, for the first time, set to take place in an Olympic year. In fact, they take place less than six months before the opening ceremony in Paris – and just six months after the 2023 world championships in Japan.

It’s impossible for the world’s best swimmers to reach three peaks in the space of a year in their grueling sport – at least not if they want to give their best in Paris. Most of them are therefore staying at home, including Canadian stars Summer McIntosh, Penny Oleksiak, Maggie Mac Neil, Kylie Masse and Josh Liendo. Only seven of the 22 individual swimming gold medalists at last year’s worlds will compete in Doha, where competition begins on Friday with a few diving and artistic swimming events before swimming takes over the pool on February 11 .

Even though the flagship sport of competition is seriously depleted, there are still some good Canadian angles to follow. Here are the most interesting:

Canada sent a strong team of divers.

Unlike the swimmers, Canada’s diving contingent in Doha is complete. Recent World Championship medalists Pamela Ware, Caeli McKay, Mia Vallée, Rylan Wiens and Nathan Zsombor-Murray are all expected to compete.

Vallée won silver in the women’s 3m springboard and bronze in the non-Olympic 1m springboard at the 2022 World Championships in Hungary, where Wiens and Nathan Zsombor-Murray won bronze in the men’s synchronized 10m springboard. Ware and McKay took bronze in the women’s 3m and 10m solo events respectively last year.

Canada earned an Olympic berth in each of the women’s 3m, women’s 10m and men’s 10m events and will look to add more Olympic entries in Doha. The divers who fill these spots will be determined at the Canadian Olympic Trials in May in Windsor, Ontario.

The diving competition in Doha begins on Friday with the women’s 1m and mixed team events and continues until February 10.

This is Canada’s last chance to send a water polo team to Paris.

The men’s team is eliminated from Olympic competition, but the women can win one of the two remaining spots in their event. These will go to the top two who have not yet qualified for the Games.

Half of the 16 women’s teams present in Doha have won their ticket to Paris, so Canada faces seven other teams for these two Olympic places. The Canadians face two in the group stage as they take on Great Britain on Tuesday and Italy, last year’s world bronze medalists, on Thursday. Canada’s opening match is Sunday against South Africa, which clinched the relatively weak African region’s only Olympic berth.

The best team in each group advances directly to the quarter-finals. The finalist will qualify for a playoff match for a place in the quarterfinals. The other two teams will be eliminated from the championship, and probably from the Olympic Games too.

Canadian women reached the quarterfinals in Tokyo in 2021, but the country has never won an Olympic medal in water polo.

Canadian artistic and open water swimmers can also qualify for the Olympics.

Artistic swimming (formerly known as synchronized swimming) still has five Olympic spots open in the team event and eight in the duet event. The world championships are the last chance to seize them.

The Canadian duo of two-time Olympian Jacqueline Simoneau and Audrey Lamothe, an 18-year-old who placed fourth in the non-Olympic solo free event at last year’s world championships, will attempt to reach Paris as a duo. In the team competition, Canada will compete with seven other countries for the final five Olympic entries. Five other teams in Doha have already clinched Olympic berths as continental champions.

The artistic swimming competition begins Friday and continues until February 10.

Four Canadian open water swimmers are vying for a spot in the Olympic 10km events – the only outdoor races on the Paris schedule. Saturday’s women’s race includes teenagers Emma Finlin and Laila Oravsky. Sunday’s men’s race features two-time 5K world medalist Eric Hedlin and Hau-Li Fan, who placed ninth in the 10K at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. A top-13 finish in Doha allows you to access the Olympic Games.

How to watch:

Live coverage on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem begins Friday at 7:30 a.m. ET with the mixed team diving event and continues daily until the end of the world championships on the 18th. FEBRUARY. The CBC television network will have additional coverage on Saturdays.

See the full streaming and broadcast schedule here. Watch former Canadian Olympic swimmer Brittany MacLean’s three reasons to watch the World Aquatics Championships here.

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