Austria, Colombia, Mexico and Spain Shine on Final Day of Paris World Cup

The Paris World Cup and artistic swimming Olympic test event is now done and dusted. Four more sets of medals were awarded on the third and final day of competition in the women’s and men’s solo free, the mixed duet free, and the acrobatic team.

In the morning, Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria won her second gold of the competition in the women’s solo free, while Gustavo Sanchez of Colombia also claimed his second gold in the men’s free solo event. In the afternoon, Jordi Caceres and Judith Calvo of Spain took the top spot in the mixed duet free, before team Mexico clinched another gold in the acrobatic team event in front of a sold-out Olympic Aquatics Centre.


Free Solo (W)

25 athletes were up bright and early on this Sunday morning to participate in the women’s solo free event. In the end, the podium from the technical event repeated itself, with Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria in gold, Klara Bleyer of Germany in silver, and Marloes Steenbeek of the Netherlands in bronze.

Vasiliki Alexandri swam her “Fight for Survival” routine set to music from the post-apocalyptic horror movie Bird Box, which scored 257.3939.

“I was looking for new music, and I just found this one from a dance performance,” she said about this solo she debuted at the Doha World Championships. “I really liked it because it had many accents, and with the new system, you need something interesting. And I wanted to interpret what happens in the movie, where the main characters are blindfolded and fight for their own survival. Today, I felt a little bit tired, but it was a clear swim and I wasn’t that nervous, it felt like training.”

Klara Bleyer claimed her second silver of this World Cup with a score of 229.3499 for her “Mandalorian” routine. She had declared the highest Degree of Difficulty (DD) of this event, 45.35. She did receive one basemark on her final hybrid, but her starting difficulty was so high that it didn’t penalize her too much, allowing her to stand on the podium once more.

Marloes Steenbeek performed a clean routine to “Golden Hour” by JVKE to win bronze again with a score of 226.6250.

This event also marked the return of Anita Alvarez of the USA in the free solo. Alvarez hadn’t performed in solo since the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, and everything that ensued that needs no dwelling on. 

Here, she swam to the song “Human” by Sevdaliza, which she found through a dance video on social media. She was also wearing a swimsuit inspired by a dress the Dutch-Iranian swimmer wore in the Iris Van Herpen SS21 Haute Couture show.

“Obviously it meant a lot to get back out there and get that first swim out of the way after everything that happened, and after the past two years without it,” she said. “This song is very special to me. It talks about the human experience, the flaws and imperfections, and everything that comes with being a human in general. Which I felt was very fitting for the past two years I’ve had, and all my years as an athlete. Andrea [Fuentes, head coach] and I took some time to play around and choreograph it, and it flowed very easily and quickly. It meant a lot to get to compete again, and have kind of a fresh start.”

Alvarez swam early in the lineup, but hung onto a spot on the podium until the very last routine. She ultimately finished fourth with a total of 215.7707 after receiving a basemark on her final hybrid. The solo is not an event the Americans have been focusing on in this Olympic year, but it was important for them to show this routine today, and to put Budapest behind them.

“I’ve been trying to not feel too much pressure from the outside,” she continued. “Of course, it’s still there in the back of my mind, but I’ve been trying to filter everything out. I know our reasons for wanting to do this solo, and trying to stick with that. Yes, I’m thinking about what other people are thinking or if people are on the edge of their seats as I swim, but I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can, focus on myself, and not think about all the other distractions.”

Karina Magrupova of Kazakhstan placed fifth with a score of 204.4667 with her engaging choreography to the theme of “Broken Doll.”

Another noteworthy performance came from Switzerland’s Melody Halbeisen, who placed ninth with a score of 177.7189. The 16-year-old swam to “1944” by Jamala, and her energy and interpretation could truly be felt from the stands. Halbeisen, who was amongst the youngest competitors in this World Cup, will be one to watch at the upcoming European Junior Championships and World Junior Championships, where she will perform in this solo event as well as in the duet.

Of note, all of Switzerland’s routines presented at this competition in both solo and duet were all built around the new apnea time limits, which will come into effect at junior international competitions this season.

Klara Bleyer, Vasiliki Alexandri and Marloes Steenbeek. Photo: KMSP/S.KEMPINAIRE

Free Solo (M)

The men’s free solo followed shortly after, with nine athletes taking part in this event. Unfortunately, every single routine received basemarks except the gold-winning performance from Gustavo Sanchez of Colombia.

Swimming to “Birth” by 30 Seconds to Mars, the reigning world bronze medalist claimed another gold with a score of 204.0210. He was particularly thrilled about this result as his family traveled to Paris to watch him compete here.

“This is actually the first time my mom sees me in an international competition,” he said. “But also my aunt, my cousins, Jennifer’s [Cerquera, his duet partner] aunt… It is very special to have so much family supporting us here and to win this medal in front of them. It was a very hard performance because this solo has so much difficulty. The hybrids are so long and it’s been very hard work, so I am very happy with this result.”

Viktor Druzin of Kazakhstan had declared the highest DD of the field with 38.10. Even though he received two basemarks, his performance was still enough for silver and a final score of 163.7189. 

Finally, Kenneth Gaudet of the USA won bronze, his second medal of the competition, with a final score of 161.6187. His routine, set to “Akuma no Ko” by Ai Higuchi was also constructed around the junior apnea time limitations, as the American gears up for the World Junior Championships later this summer.


Free Mixed Duet

It was a very quick turnaround for most of the men who competed in the men’s free solo. Viktor Druzin, Jordi Caceres, Filippo Pelati, Gustavo Sanchez and Ranjuo Tomblin all had to immediately get back in the pool and get ready to go again for this free mixed duet final.

Just like in previous event, the sole routine that didn’t receive any basemarks in this final is the one that ultimately won. Jordi Caceres, who had just placed fourth in the solo free, and Judith Calvo of Spain claimed gold with a score of 189.2749 for their “Angels & Demons” routine.

The Spanish pair only had declared the sixth-best DD (32.95) out of the seven duets competing here, but their strong execution, artistic impression and confidence in their routine allowed them to claim the top spot.

“We haven’t realized yet that we won,” Caceres said. “We have been working together for only a few months, so we are so happy to get this gold medal.”

The pair had already performed together at the Beijing World Cup a few weeks ago, but may very well be done for this season. Indeed, Spain’s top mixed duet featuring World and European medalists Dennis Gonzalez Boneu, Emma Garcia and Mireia Hernandez, is expected to return in the remaining events of the season.

Jennifer Cerquera and Gustavo Sanchez of Colombia claimed silver with their engaging “Salsa” choreography and a score of 183.0501. Finally, the junior duet of Italy, made of Filippo Pelati and Flaminia Vernice earned bronze with a score of 176.5708. The two did have two basemarks on their routine, and are already looking ahead to showing a better performance at the next World Cup.

“We are happy for the medal, but we know we can do better,” Vernice said. “We will work hard for the next competition. We are happy to swim together in this duet, and I think we are a great pair. Next, we will go to Markham, I know we can improve there.”

Ranjuo Tomblin and Beatrice Crass of Great Britain unveiled a new choreography set to the song “They Want It, But No” from the movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. They did also receive a basemark in their opening hybrid, as well as significant synchronization deductions after one of the athletes got a bit lost in that same hybrid. In the end, they ranked fifth with a score of 141.5188.

Artur Maidanov and Valeriya Stolbunova of Kazakhstan were competing in their first World Cup event as a mixed duet here. The two, who won silver in the junior category at the Asian Age Group Championships last March, had declared 35.85 in DD. Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that it was perhaps too much for them. The pair struggled through the entire routine, and ultimately received five basemarks as well as 23 points in synchronization deduction to finish in seventh place.

The other mixed duet of Kazakhstan, with Viktor Druzin and Anna Pavletsova, had declared the highest DD of the field (37.95). They managed a fourth-place finish, despite having two basemarks, with a total score of 158.5043.

Team Japan. Photo: KMSP/S.KEMPINAIRE


Acrobatic Team

The final event of this Paris World Cup was the acrobatic team, where 10 nations showcased their high-flying acrobatics in front of a sellout crowd.

Since the Doha World Championships, the bar had clearly been raised in this event. Back in February, the highest achieved DD so far had been 24.60 from the American team. In Paris, five teams had declared above that number, with four aiming for DDs above 25.

The team of Mexico, with a DD of 25.35, was essentially flawless in its choreography inspired by Matlalcueye, the Goddess of rain and terrestrial water. Swimming fourth in the lineup and to a music edited by one of the team’s fliers Jessica Sobrino, the Mexicans nailed all of their acrobatics, wowing the crowd with their explosivity and sharpness throughout the routine.

They took the lead early on with a score of 251.7867, and ultimately stayed at the top, winning their second gold medal in this competition and gaining momentum ahead of this summer’s Games.

“We are very happy and satisfied with our results,” Nuria Diosdado said. “We didn’t come to Paris thinking about winning a medal, we only came with the mentality to have clean swims and avoid basemarks as much as possible. The Olympic Games will be challenging with the new rules and the strong level of everybody, but we are enjoying the journey. We are calm and satisfied, with a lot of energy to give our all over the last weeks we have before the Olympics.”

Japan won silver with a score of 248.5234 for its new “Alligators” routine. The Japanese displayed a captivating and engaging choreography, filled with intricate details and sharp pattern changes that all recalled their theme. With a DD of 25.05, a huge 3.45 increase since Doha, the lowest synchronization errors of the field, and the second-highest artistic impression score, the Japanese have clearly made up ground in this event.

The USA, bronze medalists in Doha, completed the podium, placing third with its “Amazon” routine and a score of 243.9366. The team of China, reigning two-time World Champions in this event, had declared the highest DD of the event with 25.65. The Chinese sadly received a basemark on their third acrobatic move, which dropped them to fourth place with a score of 243.0966, missing the podium by only 0.84 points.

Canada placed fifth with a score of 229.8300 for its “Hip Hop” routine. Much like Australia, the Canadians have had to adapt in Paris after their main team flier, Olena Verbinska, could not make it to this competition. Thankfully, the squad had scheduled a training camp in Monceaux-les-Mines ahead of this World Cup, which gave them a bit more time to make the necessary adjustments. 

Sydney Carroll, Raphaelle Plante and Jacqueline Simoneau stepped up to the challenge and took on all the acros. They did it successfully so as the Canadians did not receive any basemarks on these elements during this competition.

France, reigning European Champions, made its first appearance in this event since the 2023 World Championships with their new routine set to the theme of “Art”. The French team swam first in front of a fired-up crowd and were credited with their full DD of 24.10. Despite a clean swim, they however couldn’t quite catch up to their main competitors with higher difficulty, and had to settle for sixth place with a score of 229.4667. 

“We finished on a very high note,” said Ambre Esnault. “We declared a certain DD, and we received full credit for it. I’m very proud of us.” 

Eve Planeix, the team’s flier, was equally proud:

“We couldn’t have done much better in this competition, given the difficulty we had announced. Mission accomplished. Now we’re going to make adjustments and continue to work hard. All this support in the pool today gives us a lot of energy. We know that people believe in us and that makes us feel great. We know that in terms of atmosphere, it will certainly be even crazier at the Olympics. So, we’re happy to have been able to experience a competition in this pool before the big day.” 

The Artistic Swimming World Cup heads next to Markham, Canada, for the third leg of the circuit which will start on May 31st.


Cover photo: Stéphane Kempinaire / FFN

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