Paris World Cup Day Two: Austria, Kazakhstan, and Japan Lead Podium Charge

The second day of the Paris World Cup and Olympic test event featured a bit of a lighter schedule, with only three events on the programme — duet free, mixed duet technical and team free.

In the morning, Anna-Maria and Eirini Alexandri of Austria won gold in the women’s duet free with a score of 265.9646 on their first outing of the season. In the afternoon, reigning World Champions Nargiza Bolatova and Eduard Kim of Kazakhstan took the top spot in the mixed duet technical with a total score of 216.3250. Finally, in the evening, team Japan claimed gold in the team free event with its Chess routine and a score of 323.3207.


Free Duet

The day started with the women’s duet free event with 27 nations participating in this Olympic event. In their first appearance since the Fukuoka World Championships, Anna-Maria and Eirini Alexandri of Austria claimed gold with their Condor routine and a score of 265.9646. The pair decided to withdraw from the last World Championships in Doha after a nagging shoulder injury of Anna-Maria resurfaced.

“Yes, finally, nine months after Fukuoka!” Eirini said. “But it felt like it was yesterday. We were a little more nervous because it was our first competition. But when we jumped in the water, it was like training. The pool is very beautiful, and we really like the water. It feels really light, and it’s really clear with not so much chlorine, we see everything, it’s very nice.”

The triplet sisters finally got to swim in Paris after having to scratch from the technical duet event yesterday. They had invented and declared a new R5 element, but it hadn’t been approved and added yet to the difficulty table. Thankfully, everything was settled ahead of today’s event, and they could successfully perform it this morning.

“We are so proud because we created this element and we really like it,” Anna-Maria continued. “We trained so much and we really wanted to compete in the technical duet, especially because it’s new, but next time!”

Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva of Ukraine made a strong statement over these last two days of competition, and even more so by winning silver in today’s event. The twins scored 243.9354 for their “Up Down” routine.

“We are happy to be there and represent our country in this pool,” Vladyslava said. “It’s a big chance to check the Olympic pool, get a feel for how it will be. It is a bit easier when you know you’ve already been in this pool.”

After claiming one of the last duet quotas to the Paris Olympic Games, the twins have fully focused on the duet event. They moved to Kyiv to train, to be closer to their relatives, but also to benefit from more peace of mind.

“It’s hard to stay focused and to control your emotions when there’s a war in your country,” Maryna said. “In Kyiv, we get a notification when a rocket comes and it gives us a few hours before we have to go to the shelter. In Kharkiv, you don’t know when it will come. But coming here, I forgot to turn off my notifications, so it was stressful when it worked. And a few days ago, there was a big thunderstorm here during the night. We were so scared, we weren’t sure what it was, but then we realized we were in Europe and everything was good, so we could relax a little bit.”

Audrey Lamothe and Jacqueline Simoneau of Canada claimed their second bronze of this World Cup. The pair scored 238.2876 for its choreography set to the song “I wanna DumTek” by Artem Uzunov.

Higa Moe and Yasunaga Mashiro of Japan unveiled their new “Pegasus” choreography for the first time. They had declared the highest Degree of Difficulty (DD) of the field, 47.70, but unfortunately received a basemark. Their strong execution and artistic impression weren’t quite enough for the podium; the Japanese placed fourth with a total of 236.7334, only about 1.5 points behind the Canadians.

The USA tested out two different pairs compared to yesterday’s technical event. Jaime Czarkowski and Megumi Field opened the duet competition this morning, unveiling a new choreography set to the music of the trailer of Netflix’s show “Damsel”. They did receive a small basemark on their opening pair acro, which slightly dropped their DD from 41.95 to 40.05, and placed seventh overall.

“This is a very new routine,” head coach Andrea Fuentes said. “We have been working on it for about two weeks only, so they are still getting used to it. We liked the previous music but we didn’t find the theme too spectacular, so we wanted to change. One of the swimmers heard this music one day and we liked it a lot, especially with Edith Piaf’s ‘L’Hymne à l’Amour’ in it. It’s great for Paris, and we like the contrast this music brings through the routine.”

Swimming a bit later in the lineup, Anita Alvarez and Ruby Remati performed to the same music, but didn’t have as much as a clean swim as their teammates. The two finished 23rd after receiving three basemarks and over 17 points in synchronization deductions.

The last time the USA competed in the duet event was at the Pan American Games, where Field and Remati had earned silver. Back then, the DD was only 33.50, so this Paris outing marked a big jump in that aspect as well. With this competition, the Americans are hoping to gain more clarity as to which athletes would perform best at the Olympics.

“We tried multiple combinations so we will look at execution and basemarks of each one to determine who will be better prepared to do both duet and team,” Fuentes continued. “Because it’s not only about doing well in duet. At the Olympics, they will have to swim in five events, so this also helps us see who will be able to handle all five choreographies with this new difficulty as well.”


The women’s duet free podium. Photo: KMSP/S.KEMPINAIRE


Technical Mixed Duet

Eight pairs competed in the mixed duet technical event, with the reigning World Champions of Kazakhstan taking the gold with a score of 216.3250. Nargiza Bolatova and Eduard Kim nailed their “Corpse Bride” routine and easily took the lead with a basemark-less swim and the highest artistic impression score of the event.

Filippo Pelati and Sarah Maria Rizea of Italy, who had missed the podium at the Beijing World Cup in April, clinched silver with a score of 207.5367, swimming to Verdi’s Requiem.

Jordi Caceres and Judith Calvo of Spain claimed bronze with 198.8417. This is already Caceres’ third bronze in the mixed duet events at the World Cups — second alongside Calvo — and he’s undoubtedly soaking in every moment of his first international season.

“It is amazing,” he said. “It’s a dream, I am not really realizing yet. My career was only at nationals before, and now I am here. This is crazy. If somebody told me I would be here, I wouldn’t believe it. I really enjoyed today and swimming with Judith. It’s a pleasure representing Spain with her this year.”

Matea Butorac and Adrian Gavelle made history for Croatia, representing the nation in the event for the first time. The two placed sixth with a total score of 162.6284 with their “Rhythm of the Spring City” routine.

While Butorac has been competing internationally since 2018, this World Cup was Gavelle’s first major competition. The 23-year-old had actually quit artistic swimming for a little less than two years, and after many years competing domestically in France. He had been coaching at his last club, Pays d’Aix Natation, for a while when Croatian coach Valeria Petrachina approached him with the idea of doing a mixed duet.

Gavelle couldn’t pass up on the opportunity, so he packed his bags and moved in with his grandparents in Croatia to begin training again. Butorac and Gavelle started together last September, and are excited for the future ahead.

“I have no words to describe this,” Gavelle said. “I am just very proud to represent my country for the first time. When my coach Valeria suggested I do a duet with Matea, it was impossible to say no, even if I had stopped synchro. I have my grandfather and grandmother there, so I can live with them for this experience, it’s been very good.”

“I am really honored to be here too,” Butorac added. “I am happy that I can participate in a mixed duet, and write a little bit of history for Croatia artistic swimming.”

Beatrice Crass and Ranjuo Tomblin of Great Britain made their season debut here after forgoing the Doha World Championships. The pair had declared the highest DD of the competition at 31.80, a five point increase since their last outing at the 2023 World Championships. Unfortunately, they received two basemarks for their “Charleston” routine and ultimately placed seventh.


Free Team

The day ended with the team free competition. Eight countries participated, including five that will return in a few weeks for the Olympic Games: Australia, Canada, Egypt, Japan and the USA. Much like in the technical team event, tonight was basemark-galore, with only Australia managing a clean swim.

Japan took the gold with a score of 323.3207 for its “Chess” routine, while the team of Canada grabbed silver with a total score of 297.5853. The Canadians had initially declared a massive DD of 61.70, which would have been the highest done in the world so far if fully credited. They ultimately received a basemark on their second-to-last hybrid, but their score was still enough for second place. Kazakhstan completed the podium, winning bronze with a total of 253.6353 with a new routine set to the theme of “Ritual.”

Australia, fresh from winning three medals in the team events at the Beijing World Cup, finished fourth with its Avatar routine. They were the only team to be credited their full DD tonight (46.75), and scored 245.1771. 

The squad was particularly elated as it has faced some challenges since arriving to Paris. After losing their main flier to injury, the Australians have had to adapt quickly to be able to perform in the technical and free team routines. 

“The injury happened on the first day of music practice, so me and Rayna [Buckle] have filled in for all the acros that Zoi [Poulis] would normally be on top of,” Margo Joseph-Kuo explained. “We had to quickly restructure what we were going to focus on as a team, and we had to adapt a lot. It was more overwhelming than I thought, but it really brought us together. Finishing that swim, being able to come out of it with no basemark, is really relieving. I think it’s a testament to the fact that when we put all our minds together and we really go for it, we can achieve what we want.”

The Australians are now done in this World Cup, as they have had to withdraw from the acrobatic team here as it is, as the name indicates, an event solely about acrobatics.

“We really enjoyed swimming in this Olympic pool,” Rayna Buckle continued. “We had to go through all this adversity, and we did all of this in this pool. Now when we come back, we will feel more ready, more prepared and more familiar with the environment. It was nice to see the stands filled today, that was really comforting to see people cheering us on and watching us.”

The USA was the only mixed team tonight, with Bill May swimming in the free team routine for the first time. The music issues continued today, with the Americans’ music stopping about 20 seconds into the routine. The athletes had to exit the pool, and start over again. It didn’t faze them one bit as they nailed their first acrobatic move once more, even earning two 10s from judges. 

“We’ve built a really good team dynamic, and it’s been really special to swim with Bill,” Daniella Ramirez said. “And even having that restart, it never fazes us to have some challenges. Look at us at the World Championships, we had some challenges but we always find a way to put our feet back on the ground and ground ourselves into it. It means a lot to be here right now.”

Unfortunately, the Americans ultimately received five basemarks for their “Water” routine, which dropped them to sixth place with a total score of 213.0085. They did however receive the highest artistic impression score of the evening, and are now simply looking ahead.

“There are still a few months to go,” Bill May said. “This is the first time that we have all been together, that they have had to swim this routine with a guy (laughs). It’s a test event for everyone, also for us. Now we are ready to get back and to start pushing in everything, get our execution up, our basemarks away, and it’s going to be pretty magical pretty soon.”

The competition concludes tomorrow with the women and men’s solo free, the mixed duet free and the acrobatic team.


Cover photo: Stéphane Kempinaire / FFN

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