July 12, 2019 12:15
The FINA World Championships, the world's biggest swimming event, kick off in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Friday. The biennial event, which runs through July 28 is the competition swimmers around the world want to participate in most after the Olympics.
This year's event in Gwangju is expected to draw 2,639 athletes from 194 countries competing for 186 gold medals in six disciplines -- swimming, diving, high diving, water polo, artistic swimming and open water swimming.
With the exception of the swimming discipline, 43 percent of the spots for aquatic sports at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be allocated based on the results in Gwangju.
Most of the U.S. team members are stars in their disciplines, and they include 18 Olympic gold medalists. Russia is the dominant force in artistic swimming, having won 51 championship titles so far. Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Aleksandra Patskevich are some of the biggest names to watch.
Sun Yang is the pride of China, with nine championships and three Olympic gold medals throughout his illustrious career.
Park Tae-hwan -- the only Korean swimmer to have won a medal at the world championships, which came eight years ago -- decided not to compete at this year's event.
Kim Seo-young is considered Korea's best bet for a medal. Kim became the first Korean to advance to the final of the women's 200-m individual medley at the championships in 2017, where she finished sixth. She recorded the fourth-fastest time in the world in the category this season with 2:08.34. Kim, who will compete in the 200-m and 400-m individual medleys, said, "As this is being held at home, I'd really like to stand on the podium."
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