The artistic swimming events at the 2024 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, got underway today with the technical solo preliminaries for both women and men, as well as the technical duet preliminary.
Evangelia Platanioti of Greece led the way in the women’s technical solo preliminary with a score of 270.1901. On the men’s side, China’s Yang Shuncheng heads into the final as the top qualifier for his first World Championships appearance after scoring 242.4367. In the technical duet preliminary, his teammates Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi placed first with a total of 269.8883.
TECHNICAL SOLO PRELIMINARY – WOMEN
28 athletes opened the artistic swimming competition in Doha, taking part in the technical solo preliminary and with only the top 12 advanced to tomorrow’s final.
For her eighth World Championships appearance, Evangelia Platanioti of Greece started off with a bang. Swimming a brand new choreography to the theme of “Black Ravens”, Platanioti successfully performed the highest Degree of Difficulty (DD) of the field, a 38.90. She received a final score of 270.1901 for first place. After finishing fourth last year in this event, she is now certainly looking like a strong contender to return to the podium.
Reigning vice-World champion in the event, Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria ranked second with a total of 264.5967 with her “Road to Success” routine, using the same music as last season.
“I swam well, everything felt good,” she said. “Except for one technical element, which I could do with a bit more power. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that tomorrow. Today, I had to do the work and get into the final. That’s done, and tomorrow is the battle for the medals.”
Jacqueline Simoneau of Canada, competing for the first time since the Tokyo Olympic Games, placed third with a total of 260.7500. Swimming to Michael Bublé, one of her favorite singers, she performed as if she’d never left, smoothly going through the new (for her) technical elements and greatly adapting to the new rules.
Xu Huiyan (China), Vasilina Khandoshka (Neutral Individual Athlete), Susanna Pedotti (Italy), Maria Alavidze (Georgia), Marloes Steenbeek (the Netherlands), Klara Bleyer (Germany), Monica Arango (Colombia), Kyra Hoevertsz (Aruba) and Karina Magrupova (Kazakhstan) are all qualified to the final as well.
Vasilina Khandoshka, originally from Belarus, is competing in Doha under the Neutral Individual Athlete flag after being granted that neutral status by World Aquatics. Like Simoneau, Khandoshka had not competed in a major international competition since the Tokyo Olympics. She did participate in a few events hosted in Russia, and was thus able to test out her routines under the new scoring system. In Doha, she swam to the song “Angel” by Depeche Mode and placed fifth with 253.1917.
An incredible significant milestone is the performance of Maria Alavidze, qualifying herself and Georgia to a first-ever World Championships final. The 17-year-old has been steadily improving over the years, making it to her first European Championships final in 2022, placing fourth at last year’s European Junior Championships, and now bound for a historical finish on the World stage.
“I feel really good about my swim,” she said. “I’m very satisfied with my performance today, and it’s a really nice feeling to be in the final. The first one for Georgia at the World Championships!”
Marloes Steenbeek of the Netherlands opened up the entire competition, swimming first in this technical solo preliminary event. After competing in duet for the last two years, she made her debut in the solo event here in Doha, swimming to a Dutch cover of “Voilà” by Barbara Pravi. She qualified in eighth place with a score of 231.9267. This is also the first time the Netherlands is represented in the solo event at the World Championships since 2013.
The women’s technical solo final will take place tomorrow, February 3 at 2:00 pm local.
TECHNICAL SOLO PRELIMINARY – MEN
14 men took part in the technical solo preliminary, a notable increase since last year’s World Championships.
Competing at his first World Championships, Yang Shuncheng of China reached the top of the leaderboard with a score of 242.4367 and the highest DD of the field (34.20). Although only 16, Yang has been training with the senior national team in Beijing for over a year, and has undoubtedly benefited from this intensive environment.
For his international debuts in 2023, he had already won two gold medals in the technical and free solo events at the Soma Bay World Cup. A few months later, he came away with gold in mixed duet and silver in solo at the World Youth Championships. After today’s performance, he has clearly set himself up as one of the favorites for the World title.
Gustavo Sanchez of Colombia, fourth-place finisher last year, qualified to the final in second with a score of 228.9966. Dennis Gonzalez Boneu of Spain is in third with a 228.7550 for his routine set to “Kiss” by Prince. This marked Gonzalez Boneu’s first appearance in the technical solo event in a senior international meet. He replaces teammate and reigning World champion Fernando Diaz del Rio Soto, who retired at the end of the 2023 season.
Moreover, this event marked the return of European Champion Giorgio Minisini of Italy to competition. Minisini suffered a season-ending injury after the European Games in 2023, and could not compete in the inaugural session of this event in Fukuoka.
In Doha, the Italian swam to “Still loving you” by Scorpions, which earned him the highest artistic impression score of the field. However, he received a basemark on his final hybrid and had to settle for fourth with a score of 218.0966. Naturally, he will get to start from a blank slate in the final.
“Seeing a World Championship from home makes you feel the importance of the event even more,” he said. “That July 17 last year, the day of the final, I was desperate to be there but I knew I couldn’t and it was gnawing at me. Today, the feeling in the water was positive. We need to look at the video again, understand where this glitch is that made us lose several points. However, the judges’ scores were positive. The gap over the others in the artistic impression and execution part is there, now we just have to try to figure out how to recover these points in the finals.”
Kenny Gaudet of the USA and Eduard Kim of Kazakhstan, respectively silver and bronze medalists in 2023, placed fifth and 10th in this preliminary round. Both have qualified to the final.
Consequently, the field for this final includes Yang Shuncheng, Gustavo Sanchez, Dennis Gonzalez Boneu, Giorgio Minisini, Eduard Kim, Diego Villalobos (Mexico), Nicolas Campos (Chile), Bernardo Santos (Brazil), David Martinez (Sweden), Kenny Gaudet, Kantinan Adisaisibutr (Thailand) and Renaud Barral (Belgium). This will also be a historical World final for Sweden and David Martinez, who placed ninth for his first appearance at a World Championships.
The men’s technical solo final will take place on Monday, February 5 at 8:00 pm local.
TECHNICAL DUET PRELIMINARY
40 duets competed in this technical duet event, which marked the beginning of the competition for the last remaining Olympic duet quotas. Ultimately, as the scores from finals are being used to determine the qualification rankings, a place to the technical duet final essentially guarantees a pair that it is still very much in the race.
Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi of China made it to the final in first with a score of 269.8883 for their “Lotus” routine. The twins are already qualified for the Olympic Games, and are undoubtedly now looking to reclaim their spot at the top. World Champions in 2022, they had finished fourth in 2023.
Bronze medalists in 2023, Spain’s Alisa Ozhogina and Iris Tio claimed second with their brand new choreography set to “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, scoring 258.7199.
“We are very happy, the first event is the one that personally makes me more nervous,” Tio said. “But in the end, I have commented with Alisa to see if we finish polishing some little things for the final. As a duet, we are more consolidated and it is noticeable that we have improved. Let’s see if we can do better in the final. This music by Michael Jackson is a very expressive choreography that we really like to swim”.
Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe of Great Britain qualified in third with a 157.0233 for their “Big Ben” routine. Linda Cerruti and Lucrezia Ruggiero of Italy, the reigning vice-World champions, have also made it to the final, placing fourth with 252.1400 with their same “Phoenix” choreography as last season, albeit with increased DD (obviously).
The duets of Greece and Israel are tied (!) for fifth place with a total of 251.7183, and both have maintained the same themes and choreographies as in 2023, “Cruella” and “Gypsy Dance”, respectively. Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee of Israel actually recorded the highest DD of the event, a 36.90. The scores are overall incredibly tight between the pairs of Italy, Greece, Israel and the Netherlands, with only 0.5650 points separating them between fourth and seventh place.
The big shock of the day came with Ukraine’s Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva, who finished 20th after a major mistake on their final hybrid. With a score of 210.9650, obviously including a basemark, they miss the final. They will need a very strong showing in the free event, or else their Olympic fate will be determined entirely by the outcome of the team competition.
Higa Moe and Yasunaga Mashiro of Japan, reigning World Champions, withdrew from this event at the last minute. According to the Japanese press, officials from the Japan Swimming Federation stated they were not able to practice enough for this event, with one athlete feeling unwell. Higa and Yasunaga are already qualified to Paris in the duet, but are also entered in the team events in Doha to help the entire team also be in Paris.
In the end, the duets qualified to the final are China, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, Israel, Greece, the Netherlands, Canada, South Korea, Portugal, Uzbekistan and Mexico. Of these, only China and Mexico have already secured their place to the Paris Olympics.
Canada, South Korea, and Uzbekistan had all missed the final last year, placing 18th, 13th and 23rd, respectively.
The technical duet final will take place on Monday, February 5 at 2:00 pm local.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia
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