The artistic swimming events at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, got underway today with the technical solo preliminaries for both women and men, as well as the technical duet preliminary.
Reigning World Champion Inui Yukiko of Japan qualified to finals in first place in the women’s technical solo with a score of 273.2700. In the inaugural men’s technical solo, Fernando Diaz del Rio Soto of Spain will head into the final as the top qualifier after scoring 220.4034. In the women’s technical duet preliminary, China’s Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi qualified to the final in first place with 280.3334.
TECHNICAL SOLO PRELIMINARY
The day started with the women’s technical solo preliminary. 30 athletes participated in this event, and only the top 12 advanced to tomorrow’s final.
Only three athletes came away with a clean performance and no base marks, including Japan’s Inui Yukiko. Her “Life of the Droplet” routine received a total score of 273.2700 with a total Degree of Difficulty (DD) of 34.10.
Evangelia Platanioti of Greece was incredibly solid as well with her “Sirens” choreography. Platanioti had not competed yet this season in this event, and she came into it with the third- highest DD of 32.10. She ultimately nailed every element, including one free hybrid worth 10.8, the highest of the field. She qualified to the final in second with 252.2400.
Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria had declared the highest DD with a 34.75. She swam to “Mount Everest” by Labyrinth, but suffered a costly base mark on her first free hybrid. Her DD dropped to 25.10, but her score of 232.8367 was still enough for a provisional third place.
Besides Inui and Platanioti, Oriane Jaillardon of France is the only other soloist to not receive any base marks in this preliminary competition. She qualified to the final in fourth place with a score of 229.7233 for her “Madness” routine.
The other finalists are Kate Shortman (Great Britain), Audrey Lamothe (Canada), Iris Tió (Spain), Lee Riyoung (South Korea), Klara Bleyer (Germany), Karina Magrupova (Kazakhstan), Kyra Hoevertsz (Aruba) and Susanna Pedotti (Italy). Tió notably received the second-highest artistic impression score, but received two base marks on her free hybrids, dropping her to seventh.
Kyra Hoevertsz made history for Aruba, taking her country to a World Championships final for the first time. She finished 11th, scoring 193.9400 with one base mark.
“I feel really solid in my swim,” she said. “I was really nervous beforehand, but once I hit the water I became very calm. When I was finished, I just looked at my coach to see if it also looked as good as I felt, and she was happy. So I knew that we were able to reach the goals we had set. This is history for Aruba and I feel a lot of pride, both to make my first final individually and also for the country.”
“In the final, of course I would like to fix the base mark I got on the final hybrid, and work on smaller details on each element that I can fix,” she continued. “Honestly, I just want to have the time of my life because I absolutely have nothing to lose. I can only gain from this swim because I have a second chance to show this routine. I’m really, really excited about it.”
Another history-maker was Alexandra Mansare-Traore who represented Guinea, a first in artistic swimming. Mansare-Traore was born in Canada to Guinean parents and started the sport at six years old. While she competed at the Pan American Championships last summer in the masters category, these World Championships marked her big debut on the senior international stage.
“It’s a beautiful experience,” she said. “I was very, very stressed at the beginning because I am the first to represent my country so I felt a bit of pressure. But everyone has been so welcoming and kind. I was a bit worried about feeling like a fraud, but I really feel like I belong.”
The 23-year-old has been competing at the Canadian national level since she was 12. Her journey to Fukuoka all started when a local news outlet published a video feature on her. The Guinean government noticed, and offered her to compete at these World Championships.
“I feel proud to have represented my country,” she said. “My dream is for every little girl, everyone really, to feel welcome and comfortable in anything they want to do. When I was younger, I didn’t feel like I could fit in the synchro. It took some time for me to be able to feel like I belonged.”
Mansare-Traore hopes her performance and representation will inspire the younger generation. She and her cousin, a fellow artistic swimmer, aim to eventually get the sport off the ground in Guinea, where they spend every family summer holidays.
The women’s technical solo final will take place tomorrow, July 15 at 7:30 pm local.
10 men competed in the inaugural men technical solo event, and all move on to the final. By luck of the draw, Joel Benavides Lepe of Mexico became the first man to swim solo at a senior World Championships.
Spain’s Fernando Diaz del Rio Soto qualified in first place with a score of 220.4034 and the highest artistic impression score. He didn’t receive any base marks for his routine set to “Unholy” by Sam Smith.
“This is my first World Championship so I thought I would feel more nervous than this before the competition,” he said. “Maybe because this is the preliminary, but this helped me enjoy the competition very much. Since Oviedo [at the Super Final], I have tried to increase my DD and work on artistic impression, trying to really look at the judges more and be more expressive.”
Kenny Gaudet of the USA also put out a clean performance. He qualified to the final in second with a score of 214.4916, getting credited with the highest DD of the field with 27.65. Gaudet hadn’t competed since the Montpellier World Cup in May, and has drastically changed his routine since.
“I am so excited, so pumped,” he said. “I was very nervous and felt that adrenaline so I kept rushing a little during the routine. It took me a bit long to keep myself relaxed but I knew I could do everything. I am proud to have opened the competition for the whole team and the country. I changed all my choreography and I already have all my strategies. What I want to do for prelims and then for finals, and if I need to, I know how I can raise the difficulty. I feel like I have it all figured out for myself.”
“Every day, he would come to training like, ‘I am going to put one more R7,’ ‘I am going to do this and this’,” coach Andrea Fuentes added. “All by himself. I have to say, I really admire how much he worked and was motivated. Bill [May] also helped him so much with everything, staying longer with him, showing him how to move. But often, he would keep working with the iPad by himself. Really, chapeau.”
Gustavo Sanchez of Colombia had declared the highest DD of the field at 28.35, but he ultimately received a base mark on his final hybrid. He qualified in third place with a score of 202.2200. Sanchez actually swam a brand new choreography in this event, using the song “Leave me Lonely” by Ariana Grande and Macy Gray.
“The pool is so big so it was a bit nerve-wracking”, he said. “But I am good, I just got one base mark, so I will try to improve for the final. I changed music and routine before coming here to be more expressive and get better artistic impression. It was worth it, the artistic impression score was higher than my last time.”
The men’s technical solo final will take place on Monday, July 17 at 2:00 pm local, and will also feature Quentin Rakotomalala (France), Eduard Kim (Kazakhstan), Ranjuo Tomblin (Great Britain), Joel Benavides Lepe (Mexico), Kantinan Adisaisiributr (Thailand), Andy Avila Gonzalez (Cuba) and Javier Ruisanchez (Puerto Rico).
TECHNICAL DUET PRELIMINARY
The technical duet preliminary had its fair share of base marks as well, although the top six qualifiers to the final all had clean swims.
The reigning World champions Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi of China qualified in first position with 280.3334 for their “Lotus” choreography. The reigning European champions Anna-Maria and Eirini Alexandri of Austria finished second behind the Chinese twins with a score of 275.3233. Artistic impression was the difference-maker between the two, with China receiving the best artistic impression score of the evening, 106.8500.
Ukraine’s twins Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva had declared the highest DD of the preliminary with a 35.10, a massive 5.20 increase since the European Championships. They received full credit and ultimately ranked third with a score of 274.1934.
“We are so happy because we had no base marks,” Vladyslava said. “It’s the dream for each sportsman now! We are so happy to be here, in this big competition and about our performance. Our coach said she was happy too. It’s a fantastic feeling.”
“We increased our difficulty by so much,” Maryna continued. “Last time, we didn’t really know what our difficulty would be compared to other countries. Of course, we then understood we needed to get more points. After the European Championships, we came immediately to Japan and we prepared in Amagasaki for 10, 12 days. We changed almost everything in the duets during that time.”
Another pair of twins, Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer of the Netherlands qualified to the final in fourth place with 259.9635. This marked Noortje’s first competition since the Tokyo Olympic Games and after undergoing shoulder surgery.
“When we were in the Netherlands, I was pretty stressed because we came back together in a short time,” she said. “After the European Games, we started training together so… Two weeks? But our coach always reminds us that we have the experience together over the years (laughs). In the training and every day, I convinced myself that I was ready so I think I did a pretty good competition today.”
Coach Esther Jauma was not only happy with the swim and for the duet to not receive any base marks, but also about the journey of the twins and Marloes Steenbeek — who has been swimming alongside Bregje for the last two years.
“I am super proud of them and how they managed these last two seasons,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy. The twins had never swam with anybody else in a duet before, so it was challenging for Bregje. And disappointing for Noortje to see her sister swim all while not even knowing if she would be able to come back. Marloes was 16 when she entered the duet, now she’s 18 and has shown an awesome improvement. I cannot be more proud of her. And how all three of them have worked together. So yes, I am very happy, not only because of the results, but also because of everything it took these last two years to arrive here.”
Like the Ukrainians, Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee of Israel had drastically increased their DD since the European Championships, going from 29.0 to 33.4. They nailed every element and scored 248.7284 in their “Gypsy Dance” routine to rank fifth. Mexico’s Nuria Diosdado and Joana Jimenez of Mexico rather played it safe, “only” declaring a 29.60. However, the strategy ultimately paid off as they qualified to the final in sixth with a score of 244.2000.
The duets of Greece, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Portugal and Japan complete the field for the final, which will take place on Sunday, July 16 at 7:30 pm local.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
All photos: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia
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