Doha 2024: Five storylines at the World Aquatics Championships

By Lydia Ferrari Kehoe

As Doha prepares to host Qatar’s first World Aquatics Championships, we take a look at five key storylines involving European athletes and teams across swimming, open water, diving, water polo and artistic swimming.

SWIMMING – RETURN OF ADAM PEATY

Credit to: European Aquatics

Doha will mark the highly-anticipated World Championships return of Adam Peaty, who will be competing in his first long-course worlds since Gwangju in 2019.

The eight-time world champion set the 100m breaststroke world record of 56.88 in South Korea and remains the only man to have swum inside 57 seconds.

Although defending world champion Qin Haiyang will be absent, Peaty will be reunited with the likes of Arno Kamminga and Nicolo Martinenghi who completed the 100m breaststroke podium in Tokyo.

Relay qualification for Paris 2024 will be decided in Doha.

Sixteen teams will compete in each event in Paris, with three of those spots already allocated to the top three in each race at last year’s World Championships in Fukuoka.

The remaining 13 places will be decided by using the fastest combined times from the prelims and finals of the 2023 and 2024 World Championships.

Great Britain will be seeking redemption in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay after being disqualified in the heats in Fukuoka.

Italy, who became world champions in the men’s 4x100m medley relay at Budapest 2022, will be seeking to ensure qualification in Doha after failing to make the final in Fukuoka.

Thomas Ceccon, who led off that winning team, withdrew from the Italy squad in order to recover from a finger injury he sustained in December.

OPEN WATER – FORMER CHAMPIONS SEEK PARIS QUALIFICATION

Credit to: European Aquatics

A quality field will see past and present Olympic and world champions Sharon van Rouwendaal, Gregorio Paltrinieri and Florian Wellbrock featuring across the 5km and 10km races.

Leonie Beck enjoyed a clean sweep of the individual open water events at last year’s World Championships, securing a quota place for the Paris Games in the process.

The German also won the overall World Cup title ahead of Netherlands swimmer Van Rouwendaal.

Wellbrock led an all-European podium in Fukuoka with Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary and Oliver Klemet of Germany joining him in securing a Paris slot.

The 13 highest-placed athletes (both genders) in the 10km event in Doha will obtain a quota spot for their NOC.

Van Rouwendaal, with gold and silver to her name at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics respectively, has yet to secure qualification after finishing fourth in Fukuoka, 0.10secs outside the top three who booked Paris slots.

On the men’s side, Italy’s Paltrinieri will also be on the hunt for Olympic qualification after missing out on the automatic podium-finish spot in Fukuoka last year where he finished fifth.

The host nation has two allocated quota places (one male, one female) meaning that France’s former Olympic bronze medallist, Marc-Antoine Olivier, will be amongst the French athletes looking to secure his spot.

DIVING – DALEY BACK IN ACTION

Credit to: Bruce White/Scottish Swimming

The return of Britain’s Tom Daley to the diving well in Doha will see the Olympic and world gold medallist aiming to secure his ticket to a fifth Olympic Games.

Daley, who will be competing alongside partner Noah Williams in the 10m synchro event, took two years away from the sport after Tokyo before announcing his comeback in July last year.

He made his return to competition at the British Diving Cup in Edinburgh where he and Williams took gold in the men’s 10m synchronised platform event (422.46 points).

Doha will mark his first World Championships since Gwangju 2019 where he won bronze in the men’s 10m synchronised event alongside Matty Lee.

Daley will be one of a 13-strong team of British divers heading to Doha whose main objective will be to fill the remaining Olympic quota qualification spots.

ARTISTIC SWIMMING – MINISINI ON THE CUSP OF HISTORY

Credit to: European Aquatics

It’s set to be a historic year for artistic swimming as, for the first time, male athletes will be permitted to compete at the Olympic Games in Paris, 40 years after the sport’s debut at Los Angeles 1984.

Giorgio Minisini will compete in the team event where Italy will be looking to secure one of the five qualification spots on offer in Doha.

Should Italy achieve this and Minisini be selected for the Olympic team, he could be the sole European male athlete in this event heading to Paris this summer.

The Olympics would crown what has been a season of ‘firsts’ for the 27-year-old, who made history at the European Games last year by becoming the first man to compete in a team event in a major senior competition.

He took home two silvers and a bronze from that event in what is now a three-discipline team event; the longstanding free and technical routines, and the newly-added acrobatic routine.

WATER POLO – LAST CHANCE TO BOOK TICKETS FOR PARIS

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs

Doha serves as the last chance for Olympic qualification for water polo. With 16 teams having already booked their place to Paris (eight men, eight women), the remaining four men’s teams and two women’s teams spots will be up for grabs.

The recent European Championships saw an upset in the men’s tournament with Spain clinching its first European title from home favourites Croatia.

On the women’s side, Netherlands took the win over Spain, while Greece rounded out the podium by defeating Italy in the bronze medal game.

Outside of Doha, Olympic qualification comes in a few forms for water polo (men and women); two quota places for the highest-placed NOC at Fukuoka 2023, five quota places for the NOC that tops each of the continental qualification tournaments, and two quota places for the host nation.

As a result, eight men’s teams – France, Hungary, Greece, Spain, USA, Japan, South Africa, Australia – and eight women’s teams – France, Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Australia, China, USA, South Africa – have already qualified their countries for Paris 2024.

Croatia, Serbia, Italy and Montenegro are bidding to qualify for Paris among the men with Italy and Hungary among the favourites along with Canada in the women’s.