The fourth day of competition at these 2024 World Championships in Doha was all about China, which placed first across the three events on today’s schedule.
Twins Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi were crowned World Champions in the technical duet, while 16-year-old Yang Shuncheng claimed gold in the men’s technical solo a few hours later. In the morning, the Chinese team secured the top spot in the technical team preliminary with a lead of over 21 points.
TECHNICAL DUET FINAL
Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi of China are back at the top of the duet podium. World Champions in 2022 but fourth in 2023, the Chinese twins were undeniable today in Doha in this technical duet final. The Wang sisters were outstanding in their “Lotus” routine and scored 266.0484 for the gold.
“We finished fourth in Fukuoka so this time we wanted to improve our ability and enhance our performance,” Qianyi said. “We kept the same routine but we made it much better, improved the transitions, and added more difficulty into the Elements compared to last year.”
They had placed first in the preliminaries and had only very slightly increased their Degree of Difficulty (DD) for this final by only 0.10. They actually “only” had declared the eighth-highest DD of the entire final, but the Chinese have clearly shown — across all events — that superb execution, impeccable technique and noteworthy artistic impression are just as important, if not more.
The same three nations that had dominated the preliminaries remained at the top of the leaderboard in this final. However, the pair from Great Britain managed to move up one spot to clinch a historical silver medal. Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe had opted to increase their DD by 1.30 on their “Big Ben” routine, and it paid off. The two 22-year-olds, who have been swimming together for over 10 years, scored 259.5601 to win the country’s first medal in the duet event at the World Championships.
“It means so much, I can’t even put it into words,” Isabelle Thorpe said. “I just hope it’s inspiring some young girls and boys back at home, and that we can lead the way for some of them, and that there’s a bright future for artistic swimming in the UK.”
The two are undoubtedly thrilled about this placement in this Olympic event as they seek to qualify for the Games for the second time in a row.
“The confidence that this will give us will translate into the free duet,” Shortman continued. “To get a silver medal at a World Championships, in an Olympic year, is crazy. We are just really happy, I don’t think it’ll sink in for a couple of days. I think I just need to take a bit of a rest now. We need to reset ahead of that free because we’ve got big plans for that as well, so we don’t want to let this affect that either way.”
Alisa Ozhogina and Iris Tió of Spain, bronze medalists in 2023, managed to maintain that ranking in Doha and scored 258.0333. Performing a brand-new choreography set to “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, the Spaniards had also increased their DD by 0.85, and were credited with their full DD of 37.20 in this final.
“We were going to give it our all, to leave everything in the water,” Iris Tió said. “We want to improve, and we know we can improve more because we still have a long way to go. This medal is a great reward and a great motivation to keep training. Tomorrow, full speed ahead with the team.”
“We are very happy because Mayu [Fujiki, coach] has told us that we have done very well,” Alisa Ozhogina continued. “We have improved from the preliminary and we have left a better image. We are satisfied with the work we have done. Our goal was to increase the difficulty in all the routines and do them without basemarks. There are other countries that take risks, but we prefer to do it really well and go step by step.”
The biggest increase in DD came from Canada, with Audrey Lamothe and Jacqueline Simoneau upping their difficulty by 1.90 for this final. The two handled it beautifully, scoring 247.1533 to finish in sixth place for their first competition together. This is also a significant improvement for Canada from the last World Championships, where it had placed 18th.
Linda Cerruti and Lucrezia Ruggiero of Italy, vice-World champions in 2023, had originally finished ninth after receiving a basemark on their first free hybrid. However, they appealed the decision and won, which moved them up to sixth place with a score of 249.9433 and a total DD of 35.15.
A few pairs like South Korea and Uzbekistan were sadly unable to replicate their solid swims from the preliminaries. Even though neither made any changes to their difficulty, they received basemarks today and finished 10th and 12th respectively.
Like Ukraine’s duet a few days ago and Italy’s mixed duet last night, Nuria Diosdado and Joana Jimenez of Mexico had major issues on their final hybrid. That led to not only a basemark but also 24.60 in synchronization deductions. Thankfully, there is no Olympic qualification at stake for the two as they already have a spot to the Paris Games, but they will surely aim to improve on their score of 203.8166 in future competitions.
Israel’s Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee successfully attempted the highest DD of the day, a 38.10. They scored 251.2432 and maintained their fifth place from the preliminaries with their “Gypsy Dance” routine.
Competing in their fifth World Championships, Maria Goncalves and Cheila Vieira of Portugal continued their steady climb on the World rankings as well. In Doha, they finished ninth with a score of 236.8117 for their “Rodeo” routine, an improvement from their 11th place finish in 2023.
TECHNICAL SOLO FINAL – MEN
China was once again triumphant in the second final of the day, with Yang Shuncheng claiming the country’s third gold in Doha in the men’s technical solo final. Displaying crisp technical elements in his “Cello Song” routine, the 16-year-old scored 246.4766 to win his first World title, on his first appearance at a senior World Championships.
“I’m very happy with the result tonight because I never thought about winning first place,” he said. “I was only thinking about achieving a score of 242, so when I saw [Giorgio Minisini] got a score higher than that, I felt super stressed. But the stress turned into motivation to perform better.”
After suffering a basemark in preliminaries and ranking fourth there, Giorgio Minisini of Italy came back strong tonight to claim silver with a score of 245.3166 and an upped DD of 34.70. For his first appearance in this event at the World Championships, the Italian performed to “Still loving you” by Scorpions.
“The last hours of waiting were very long,” he said. “It was difficult. Since last night, the thoughts of the mixed duet came knocking back every now and then, but I tried to put them to the side. I remembered the last interview I did where I explained that my goal was to have a good experience and enjoy it to the fullest. I said to myself, okay I try to go into the water aiming for that, trying to make it worth the work. The important thing is to come out of the water with a good experience.”
Only over seven months ago, Minisini was undergoing knee surgery to repair his meniscus. This medal and come back to the World Championships is surely a testament to his work ethic and mindset. The Italian only has the free solo event left to compete in Doha.
Gustavo Sanchez of Colombia, who had finished fourth in this event in Fukuoka, won bronze with 231.0000. This is Sanchez’ second medal at a World Championships, coming after a silver in the free solo last year
“This medal gives me great satisfaction”, he said. “In the final, I tried to improve a lot my artistic impression because it was rather low in the preliminaries. I had to step it up while also improving my hybrids and technique to reach the podium. Also, I hope that my efforts and these good results serve as an inspiration for the young Colombian swimmers and for artistic swimmers from other countries too. I hope my success will serve as an example for every Latin American athlete that dreams can come true.”
Dennis Gonzalez Boneu of Spain had finished third in the preliminaries but couldn’t quite overcome his direct competitors despite increasing his difficulty by 1.75. He did earn the highest artistic impression score of the evening, but ultimately had to settle for fourth place with a score of 227.6000.
Kenny Gaudet of the USA, silver medalist in 2023, went for broke despite having two basemarks in the preliminaries. For this final, he increased his DD by 10.90 and performed the exact same two free hybrids right at the start of his routine. He was ultimately awarded his full DD of 37.60, but that however was far from enough for a medal at these World Championships, especially as he in turn lost a lot in height, execution, and nearly six points in artistic impression. He placed seventh with a total of 215.4533.
Eduard Kim of Kazakhstan, bronze medalist in 2023 and fresh off winning gold the night prior in the technical mixed duet, settled for sixth place with a score of 215.9483.
TECHNICAL TEAM PRELIMINARY
After an intense acrobatic team final last night, everyone was already back in the water early this morning to compete in the technical team preliminary.
After winning gold the night before, China continued to gain momentum at this competition and put on an impressive display of technical mastery. The Chinese competed the highest DD of the field (45.00) and placed first with a total of 304.1272.
Japan finished second with a total of 282.4379 after a confident swim. Like the Chinese, the Japanese team had missed out on this podium last year in Fukuoka, and are certainly aiming to return to it in Doha.
Spain, the reigning World Champion, presented a new, fast-paced and energetic choreography set to Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo at the Gym”. They placed third with a score of 278.0675, and comfortably move on to the final.
The other finalists are the USA, Canada, Italy, Ukraine, Israel, Australia, Kazakhstan, Slovakia and Thailand.
Italy, silver medalists in 2023, also presented a new choreography set to the electro/house song “Carnival” by Quintino. The Italians did receive a basemark on their second free hybrid, but still made it to the final, which is truly all that matters at this point to stay in the race for the Olympic qualification.
Naturally, the team of Thailand was more than excited to qualify to this final and to show its “Viva Las Vegas” choreography one more time.
“We are so, so happy, it’s unbelievable” head coach Claudia Tapparelli said. “We worked hard to try to make our routine as clean as possible, telling ourselves that it will pay off. It’s a long road, and we are trying to do our best step by step. I am so happy for our athletes.”
The big shock in this event came from the team of Greece, which had declared 42.10 in DD but suffered basemarks on its three free hybrids. Consequently, the squad is out of the final after finishing 14th, a placement that will be very hard to come back from and that virtually reduces the country’s Olympic hopes to nothing (barring a major meltdown from many countries in the free team event).
The technical team final is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 6 at 12:00 pm local.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Giorgio Perottino / Deepbluemedia
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