While a few medals were claimed by previous Olympic, World Aquatics Championships or World Series medalists, surprising results, strategically planned routines, and unpredictability of the results remained front and centre on the first day of the World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup 2023 event in Montpellier, France.
In this Mediterranean city, known for its rich culture and great climate, the Artistic Swimming Community is witnessing the possibilities and opportunities for the exciting future of the sport.
Like the first stop in Markham, Canada, the proof that any athlete on any given day can be on the podium is in today’s results.
Free Solo Women
The field of twenty-one experienced and successful soloists competing for the hardware in the Free Solo included the reigning World Champion Japan’s Yukiko Inui, World Champion silver medalist Ukraine’s Marta Fiedina and World Championship finalist, Austria’s Vasiliki Alexandri, the 2022 World Youth silver medalist, France’s Laelys Alavez, and the Bronze medalist from Markham, Canada’s Audrey Lamothe.
Yukiko Inui claimed the gold medal by scoring 389.3583 points for “OROCH I”, the choreography, swum to music by Toshiyuki Matsumoto, that tells the story about the legendary giant snake with eight heads. Inui’s degree of difficulty score was more than 5 points ahead of her nearest competitor, silver medalist Vasiliki Alexandri from Austria. However, compared to the same routine in Markham, Inui added almost seven points in difficulty, improving her score with just over seventy points. Alexandri with a score of 334.6709, won the silver medal for her new routine “Sounds of Nature”. The routine allowed Alexandri to showcase her athleticism and grace to music that uniquely used human voices to imitate the sounds of nature.
Possibly today’s best example of unpredictability and surprise was the bronze medal win by Slovakia’s Viktoria Reichova. Reichova finished last in this event in Markham Canada with her performance of “Dream of Love”. However, since Markham the entire choreography was changed producing a change in the difficulty from 16.6500 to 24.2000. Reichova’s Artistic Impression score may not have been highest in the ranking, her almost flawless execution of her hybrids earned her the final spot on the podium.
The new scoring system allows for creativity, strategy, changes, and growth in the degree of difficulties of routines, however the other side of the risk involved with changes in the degree of difficulty was also on display in Montpellier. World Champion silver medalist Ukraine’s Fiedina declared a very high degree of difficulty, 33.45 points, on her Coaches card. According to the Technical Controllers, Fiedina was unable to execute what she declared. Even though Fiedina’s Artistic Impression score ranked second, the degree of difficulty and the execution score resulted in a sixth-place finish.
Free Solo Men
In the Male Solo event, young Italian Gabriele Minak was able to secure his first World medal. The routine” The Rebirth” tells the story of Minak, who’s only participation in a World Aquatics event was in 2019 at the Youth World Championships where he finished 11th in the Mixed Duet event. In accordance with the theme of his choreography, Minak was able to execute the declared score for difficulty, which was significantly higher than the rest of the field, solidly to earn the gold medal.
Repeating the silver medal win from Markham, Spain’s Fernando Diaz del Rio Soto was able to increase his score for the routine “Elements” from 168.4000 to 193.2875 points. Colombian Gustavo Sanchez performed his routine “The Passion of Christ” for the first time to earn the bronze medal.
Technical Duet Women
With the changes in the scoring system, also came changes in the requirements for a Technical routine. With the 2024 Olympic Games right around the corner, the participation of twenty-five strong duets this weekend is a good indication that everyone is thinking about qualifications for Paris.
2022 World Champions twin sisters from China, Liuyi Wang and Qianyi Wang, have been swimming together since they were about six years old. The choreography is swum to elegant music that was created specifically for the routine themed “Lotus”. In France, the pair demonstrated their twin connection and their expertise and ability in the water and were awarded 285.4041 points for the gold medal.
As could be seen earlier in the Solo event, the Japanese Artistic Swimming Team clearly have been working on increasing their declared degree of difficulties since Markham. This performance of the “Mysterious” choreography moved Moe Higa, and Mashiro Yasunaga up one step on the podium to silver with 276.7250 points. Their difficulty score improved from 26.5 to just over 30 points.
Two of the Austrian triplet sisters Anna-Maria and Eirini, claimed another medal for the Alexandri household, a bronze for the debut of their “Karate” themed routine. The technically difficult choreography consisted of hybrids having the maximum amount of time underwater and the maximum number of movements to increase the base scores as much as possible.
Technical Duet Mixed
Repeating as the gold medal winners from the first stop of the World Cup were the Chinese duo Yiyao Zhang and Haoyu Shi who performed “Unstoppable”, a choreography based upon characteristics of both Asian and Western cultures. The pair improved their score from a few weeks ago to 246.3042 points, which included bonus points for the placement of a hybrid with the maximum number of movements and time underwater executed at the end of the routine. The silver medal was awarded to the World Championship silver medalists, Japanese brother and sister Yotaro and Tomoka Sato who scored 244.5167 points for the routine swam to the theme “Tarzan.” The bronze medal went to the Colombian duet, Jennifer Cerquera Hatiusca and Gustavo Sanchez, who capitalized on the solid execution of their “The Mystery of the Ocean” routine to claim the last spot on the podium with 212. 2958 points.
The competition continues Saturday with the Technical Solo, Free Duet, and Technical Team events. The final day of competition, Sunday, includes the Free Team, Free Mixed Duet, and Acrobatic Routine. The ever-popular Gala event will be the closing event of the 2023 Montpellier Artistic Swimming World Cup. All results are on the World Aquatics website, and can be viewed live on World Aquatics YouTube.
What's to Come from Montpellier
Saturday, May 6th
- 9:00 CET Solo Technical Women and Solo Technical Men
- 15:00 CET Duet Free Women
- 19:30 CET Team Technical
Sunday, May 7th
- 10:30 CET Team Free
- 14:30 CET Mixed Free Duet
- 17:15 CET Acrobatic Routine and Gala