On the second day of the artistic swimming World Championships in Doha, Evangelia Platanioti of Greece secured a historic gold in the technical solo, while China dominated the other two events of the day, claiming the top spot in both the technical mixed duet preliminary and the acrobatic team preliminary.
TECHNICAL SOLO FINAL – WOMEN
The first medals for artistic swimming were awarded today in the women’s technical solo final. The moment the final start lists were published, it became clear everyone was going all in on the difficulty to get a place on the podium, and to try to catch Evangelia Platanioti, who had placed first in the preliminaries with a Degree of Difficulty (DD) of 38.90.
In the final, only her and Karina Magrupova of Kazakhstan had decided to stay put with their difficulty. Everyone else increased their DD, some more drastically than others.
Four more soloists declared above 38 in DD. Vasiliki Alexandri (Austria) went up by 2.35 to reach a DD of 38.70, Jacqueline Simoneau (Canada) increased by 3.65 to declare 38.35, and Xu Huiyan (China) reached a total of 38.20 after an increase of 2.20.
At the end of the day, the gamble paid off for some, and didn’t for others. However, nobody could reach Evangelia Platanioti, who claimed her first World title and Greece’s first World Championships gold in artistic swimming with a total of 272.9633. Her strategy to stick to the set difficulty she had trained for all year clearly worked out for her, and she knew she could handle it.
“I knew I had set the bar too high,” she said when asked about her opponents trying to match her difficulty for the final. “There was no way I could change anything in the final. I believed in the difficulty I had put in, in the work I had put in, and what I did was just follow the plan. I had only my execution in mind. The instructions of my coaches, and that I could do it as I have worked on it. My every move was constantly in my mind, what to watch out for, and what to think or not think about.”
Ahead of these World Championships, her eighth overall, Platanioti had worked extensively this season with Spanish choreographer Anna Tarrés, often traveling to Barcelona to work on both of her solos and receive feedback from Tarrés’ team. In Doha, she was more than ready and went all out on her “Black Raven” choreography.
In an interview for Greek media, Platanioti also revealed she actually intended to retire from the solo event after Fukuoka, but missing out on the podium lit a fire in her: “Unfortunately, I was very poorly prepared [for Fukuoka]. I knew my potential for this and I got stubborn, so I said, ‘I will continue until Doha’. Words cannot describe this feeling right now, it’s something magical, it’s something unique.”
It has been quite the comeback for Jacqueline Simoneau, who wins her first World Championships medal, in her first final of her first competition since 2021. Swimming to “Save the last dance for me” by Michael Bublé, the Canadian athlete had strategically increased her DD for the final. Receiving full credit for her difficulty, she scored 269.2767 to win silver and Canada’s first medal in solo at the World Championships since 2009.
“I feel quite pleased with today’s performance,” she said. “Especially coming back after over two years. Honestly, I came in with no expectations. My goal is to qualify Canada to the Olympics, and solo is just a bonus event for me, so this medal is the cherry on top. Regarding my DD, it was always part of the plan to increase it for the final. Maybe not by that much, but with my abilities and experience, I was able to stay calm under pressure and handle a little less breathing time.”
“I must add that It’s lovely to be back and to see some of my dearest friends compete and succeed,” she continued. “Evangelia [Platanioti] swimming a wonderful solo with such an incredible Degree of Difficulty and with such artistry, it was wonderful to see. Unfortunately, it was also heartbreaking for Vasiliki [Alexandri], who is one of my dear friends, we have been competing on the same stage for over a decade now… So, yes, it was a win for me, but I felt her heartbreak too.”
Indeed, it certainly wasn’t the final result Vasiliki Alexandri, silver medalist in 2023, had hoped for. The Austrian had placed second in the preliminaries, and increased her DD to reach 38.70 in the final in the hopes of clinching the gold. Sadly, she received a basemark on her final hybrid, which ultimately dropped her to sixth place. Alexandri knew it as soon as she exited the pool, and broke down in tears as she waited for her score, clearly understanding full well a chance of a medal had just slipped away.
In turn, China’s Xu Huyian snuck onto the podium and won bronze with a score of 262.3700. She performed to the theme of “Night Tour of Chang’An City” and was also credited with her full DD of 38.20.
The 18-year-old is competing on the senior international stage for the very first time, and brought her country its first medal in solo since 2015, which was also the last time China was entered in this event at the World Championships.
The biggest increase in DD for this final came from Kyra Hoeverstz of Aruba, who upped her total DD by 4.05. She successfully completed it all and was credited with 33.75 DD for a total score of 227.1683. That helped her move up from 11th in the preliminaries to a historical seventh place.
Klara Bleyer’s fifth-place also marks Germany’s best-ever finish in this event, beating the previous record of sixth place at the 1982 World Championships.
TECHNICAL MIXED DUET PRELIMINARY
This second day of competition started with the technical mixed duet preliminary event, in which 13 nations competed.
The athletes from China continued to impress, with Cheng Wentao and Shi Haoyu placing first in this event with a score of 250.5150. The two had won bronze at last year’s World Championships.
One of the highlights of the day was the return of the Italian mixed duet. World Champions in 2022, the nation was but absent from the field in 2023 because of Giorgio Minisini’s injury. In Doha, Giorgio Minisini swam alongside his new duet partner, Susanna Pedotti, for the first time. The two had a very successful debut together, performing to Verdi’s Requiem and placing second with a score of 248.8633.
“It was a very positive debut,” Minisini said. “We were sure of what we had to do in the water, we managed to do it, we both felt good and the coaches were happy. We can certainly do better in the final and we will work to achieve that.”
Competing in her second World Championships, Pedotti has had a busy first few days in Doha. She swam in the technical solo preliminary on the first day, before performing in the technical mixed duet preliminary this morning and the technical solo final a few hours later, where she placed ninth.
“I, too, felt ready to be able to handle the routine in the best possible way,” she said. “I feel very good with Giorgio, I am very happy and satisfied with what we showed. Fatigue is not fun, but being able to bring to competition what you have worked on for so many months is a great satisfaction. I am very excited, but compared to the last World Championship, which was the first for me, I feel more serene and calm.”
World silver medalists in 2023, the pair of Spain placed third with a score of 237.6200. Following Emma Garcia’s withdrawal because of a nagging back injury, Dennis Gonzalez Boneu swam alongside Mireia Hernandez for the first time in this technical routine – the two are World bronze medalists in the free event. The Spaniards presented a new choreography, based on powerful beats and music from Congo, and received the highest artistic impression score of the event (99.3000).
The other countries qualified to the final are Kazakhstan, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Sweden, Brazil, Serbia, Thailand and Bulgaria. It was notably the first time Sweden and Bulgaria were entered in this event at the World Championships, and actually the very first appearance for Sweden in the mixed duet on the senior international stage.
Japan, the reigning World Champion, did not participate in this event in Doha.
The technical mixed duet final will take place tomorrow, Sunday, February 4 at 8:00 pm local.
ACROBATIC TEAM PRELIMINARY
The acrobatic team preliminary event marked the first step on the road to the Paris Olympics for all countries looking to clinch one of the last five available team spots. 19 nations competed in this routine tonight, with the top 12 moving on to tomorrow’s final.
Since that final is essentially in five minutes, we’ll try to keep this recap brief. The reigning World Champions of China qualified in first place with 247.0233, and certainly looks in great shape to defend its title with its “Light of Life” choreography. The Chinese were credited with the highest DD of the event, 23.95.
The team of Ukraine placed second with a score of 243.2134, keeping the same music and overall choreography as last year. The Ukrainians did feature a new flier, 15-year-old Oleksandra Goretska, who undoubtedly handled the pressure beautifully and nailed all her acrobatic movements.
The team of Mexico, freshly qualified to the Paris Olympics only a few months ago, unveiled a brand new choreography based on a Mexican Goddess. The squad placed third in this preliminary round with a total of 225.0267.
The reigning World silver and bronze medalists, USA and Japan, had a few hiccups they will look to fix in tomorrow’s final. The Americans were unsuccessful in their final acrobatic movement and, despite some impressive quick-thinking by the athletes and a second attempt to perform that platform acro, still received a basemark. On top of it, the team also suffered a two-point penalty for adding in an extra acrobatic movement, and thus an extra Element. Similarly, Japan received a basemark on its second-to-last acro. Both countries will certainly aim for a clean swim tomorrow, as those scores will be the ones counting towards the Olympic qualification ranking.
The countries qualified to the final are China, Ukraine, Mexico, Canada, Spain, the USA, Greece, Japan, Italy, Israel, Egypt and Chile. Besides Mexico, Spain, Italy and Israel all unveiled new and energetic choreographies tonight in Doha.
Finally, Thailand was the first team to feature two men in its routine at a senior World Championships, with Kantinan Adisaisiributr and Wattikorn Khethirankanok swimming in the “Sailor Moon/Anime” routine.
The acrobatic team final already takes place tomorrow, Sunday, February 4 at 2:00 pm local.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia
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