Doha 2024: European artistic swimmers set sights on Olympic qualification

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs

By Christina Marmet

The 2024 World Championships represent the last chance for the artistic swimming community to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris.

Five places in the team event are available in Doha to complete the 10-team Olympic field.

To gain Paris entries, nations that have not already qualified must finish in the top five with the total combined score of the three team events – Team Technical, Team Free, and Team Acrobatic, an event that will make its first appearance on the Olympic programme in August.

The duet of each of these five nations will also automatically earn a spot at the Games.

Ukraine, reigning Olympic bronze medallists, as well as Italy, Spain and Greece were amongst the European teams who qualified for the previous Olympics, and will undoubtedly be ones to watch again in Doha.

As the reigning European champions in both Team Technical and Team Free, as well as having won the title at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka in the Team Technical, Spain are amongst the favourites to qualify.

Similarly, the team of Italy, three-time European medallist and world runners-up in Team Technical, hope to qualify for their third Olympics in a row.

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs

As men are allowed in the Olympic Games for the first time, Giorgio Minisini is doing his utmost to help his country earn a spot and to be amongst the history-makers in Paris.

“We can’t wait to begin,” said Minisini. “We took everything we learned in the last year and created new routines, we are so satisfied!

“We can’t wait to show what we have, but at the same time we want to have fun and enjoy the competition.

“The pressure will be sky-high, so of course it will be important to stay focused but also light-minded.”

Israel, two-time European medallists in 2023, showed great consistency and improvement last season, and should not be counted out of this Olympic qualification race.

Finally, as the hosts, France have already qualified and are, at this time, the sole European team guaranteed to make an appearance in Paris.

The French have however opted out of these World Championships to focus on their Olympic preparation.

Credit to: European Aquatics

A few additional quotas in the duet event — between three and six — will be up for grabs in Doha.

The exact number depends on the qualified teams and the potential subsequent reallocation of continental duet quotas.

Based on the competition schedule, that will not be known until after the conclusion of the team events, which will follow the duet events.

The combined total of the Duet Technical and Duet Free scores will determine which pairs, amongst the ones not already qualified, will travel to the French capital in August.

Amongst those unaffiliated with a team, the pairs of the Netherlands and Great Britain feature the same Olympic athletes from Tokyo and are amongst the favourites to qualify.

A handful of duets have had the luxury of preparing for these World Championships as usual.

Anna Maria and Eirini-Marina Alexandri of Austria are the only European pair besides France to have qualified for Paris, having punched their ticket in June.

They had been preparing for Doha with their eyes on silverware rather than the pressure of qualification.

However, the pair were forced to withdraw just two days before the start of competition because of a recurrence of Anna Maria’s shoulder issues that first flared up at the Fukuoka World Championships last year.

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs

In the Women Solos, two-time World silver medalist Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria will be one to watch in the race for the title.

On the men’s side, World champion Dennis Gonzalez Boneu of Spain will look to repeat and add more golds to his medal collection. However, Minisini, the reigning European champion in both solos, is eyeing that title as well, especially after missing out on Fukuoka because of an injury.

“For me these Worlds are going to be particularly special,” Minisini said. “It was so hard to be locked on the couch while many talented athletes were in Fukuoka playing with the new rules.

“It really lit a fire in me and gave me so much energy. It feels so nice to be part of the game again.”

Both men can also claim podium finishes in the Mixed Duet events, especially as both Italy and Spain went head-to-head in the European Games.

In Doha, the Spaniards will look to at least replicate its silver and bronze medal finishes from Fukuoka, while the Italians plan to unveil a new pair, with Minisini swimming alongside Susanna Pedotti for the first time.