In partnership with Dubai Sports Council and the Hamdan Sports Complex, the second annual DoubleD Sports International Artistic Swimming Championships took place on December 16-17, 2022. The competition saw 215 athletes from 11 countries and 19 clubs, most competing for the first time since the pandemic.
The UAE opened its doors to athletes from Azerbaijan, Croatia, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Poland, Singapore, Spain, and Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan. The competition program included the solo, duet, team, and free combination events. All age groups were invited to attend, ranging from the 8-and-under all the way up to the seniors.
While artistic swimming is not new to the country, the event served as a good platform to popularise the sport. Emirati locals got the opportunity to learn more about it and young girls the inspiration to potentially join the clubs.
Daria Galkina, head coach and co-founder of DoubleD Sports Academy and organizer of the championship, was thrilled about the event being a huge success. She mentioned the turnout greatly exceeded expectations and drastically improved the motivation of the young UAE athletes.
“We consider that was a good kick-start for all national clubs and athletes to start practicing professionally. In the near future, we aim to introduce a high-quality referee system and to follow closely with the FINA (World Aquatics) rules for more events.”
Galkina added that the meet also served to help improve relations between the UAE and other countries through sports. For instance, it was a significant milestone for the Israeli delegation to take part in the championship for the first time. Finally, she hopes such events will empower young Emirati girls and encourage them to take an active part in sports.
The competition was opened by rhythmic gymnastics performances by young talents Nika and Alisa from DoubleD Sports Academy, and Rachel Thean from 28 Degrees Aquatic in Singapore.
The solo and duet events across the youth, junior and senior categories were all won by the athletes representing the Republic of Tatarstan. A noteworthy performance came from Maria Alavidze, who scored 84.7333 in the junior solo to win bronze. Alavidze has represented Georgia internationally over the last few seasons. The 16-year-old notably placed 10th in free solo at the last European Championships.
Here, Alavidze also won bronze in duet with her new partner Ani Kipiani. Kipiani swam at the 2021 European Youth Championships and was the reserve of the Georgian duet back then. The nation grabbed another bronze in solo in the youth category thanks to Tekla Gogilidze. She had last competed at the 2022 European Youth Championships.
Another notable individual performance came from Yasmina Rushaidat, the first artistic swimmer to represent Jordan internationally back in 2019 at the COMEN Cup. In Dubai, she placed seventh in the overall rankings in the junior free solo with 67.5667, and was first in the UAE national rankings representing her club of Oceana.
In the senior solo, former Croatia national team member Matea Butorac (81.9333) grabbed silver behind Diana Khabibullina (84.4333). Rachel Thean won bronze with a score of 81.7667. The Croatian club of Primorje Aqua Maris also grabbed silver and bronze in the senior duet, and gold in the senior team.
Much thought and effort were put into the event, and every detail mattered. For example, the medals were uniquely showcasing the map of the UAE. Every athlete was given also given to feel appreciated and motivated for the future.
There is much hope for artistic swimming in the UAE. Multiple local clubs attended the competition and the field of international competitors was greater than ever before. The event was a step in the right direction to raise the recognition of the sport in the country, to increase interests of the local federation to develop the sport, and to aim for greater heights.
ARTICLE BY RACHEL THEAN
Cover photo courtesy of DoubleD Sports Academy.
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