Doha 2024: the best version of China emerged before Paris in the World Cup, which awarded Olympic tickets in all its disciplines

The Asian giant mixed force (jumps and jumps from great heights) with remarkable growth (artistic swimming). Claire Curzan and Daniel Wiffen, the best in the Championship. Pan Zhanle broke the world record in the 100 meters freestyle. Sharon van Rouwendaal shone in the open waters. Water polo defined all its qualifiers for Paris and also its groups.

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The Chinese 4x100 meter freestyle team and a special celebration. 
Credits: CFP
The Chinese 4x100 meter freestyle team and a special celebration. Credits: CFP

After 17 days, a new World Aquatic Sports Championship wrote all its pages. The twenty-fourth since its creation. The second in the span of seven months, the sequel to a mutated post-Covid calendar adjusted to the Olympic times. Ruled by the Chinese delegation in abundance and quality, with 33 medals and 23 golds, Doha 2024 was a bridge to Paris for athletes from all six sports who saw action at all three venues.

In keeping with the general trend, it was a Chinese athlete who broke the mold of the queen event in swimming: Pan Zhanle, 19, is the new champion and world record holder in the 100 meters freestyle (47.53 seconds). However, the best were an American (Claire Curzan, with four golds) and an Irishman (Daniel Wiffan, two titles). In another milestone driven by young strokes, Erika Fairweather, 20 years old and in the 400m freestyle, won the first medal for New Zealand in a World Cup. Sarah Sjostrom scored her sixth straight world championship win in the 50m butterfly. After struggling with his mental health, Adam Peaty, the world record holder in 100m breaststroke, returned with a bronze and said he was “a little disappointed” by his performance.

In the Old Port of Doha, the open waters were marked by the double title of Sharon van Rouwendal, the Dutch champion in Rio: she won the 10 kilometers, the specialty, and then repeated in the 5, a test in which, at 31 years old, the Brazilian Ana Cunha won bronze to become the most successful open water swimmer of the World Championships, with 16 medals. Among men, Florian Wellbrock landed as Olympic and world champion and started as the biggest disappointment in the 10 km: he finished 29th in the race led by the Hungarian Kristof Rosovszky, silver in Tokyo 2020. Between classifications by general location and continental places, 17 athletes per gender were installed in Paris 2024 in the 10-kilometer race.

As almost always since the 80s, China closed the door to surprises in one of its sports - state politics, which distributed 37 tickets to Paris. Except for the men’s 1m trampoline event, in which Osmar Olvera won the first gold medal in Mexican history in the discipline, he had representatives on all the podiums in diving and high altitude jumps. There were 13 medals in an equal number of events. At 13 years and 256 days old, Huang Jianjie established himself as the youngest male champion in the history of jumping. The antithesis was embodied by the Iranian Thagi Askari, who at the age of 100 was invited to jump, be filled with applause and be awarded a symbolic gold medal.

The American women’s water polo team has won five world trophies in the last six editions. In the Qatari capital, favouritism weighed in a hard-fought victory in the final against Hungary by 10 to 9. Bronze was also defined by a goal: Spain beat Greece in an agonizing sigh. The tickets to Paris were for Hungary, Italy and South Africa, the best African. The men’s competition was decided, for the third consecutive edition, on penalties and the celebration was created by Croatia, against Italy. The two finalists made their way to Paris along with Montenegro, Serbia, Australia and South Africa, the latter two for continental places. The Olympic zones have already been defined.

As at the baptism in Fukuoka 2023, the pool of the versatile Aspire Academy in Doha was filled with male performances in artistic swimming, in the run-up to the Olympic presentation. Kazakhstan won its first world title in an aquatic discipline thanks to the exploits of Nargiza Bolatova and Eduard Kim in the technical routine of a mixed duo. Greece, with the help of Evangelia Platanioti in the individual technical routine, caught the first gold medal in artistic swimming.

The Chinese case of artistic swimming deserves a distinction, due to the combination of magnitude, opportunism and evolution: without the powerful Russians as rivals, they won seven gold medals out of 11 possible, one less than the sum of all previous editions and the highest harvest of a delegation in a single World Championship, a figure that catapulted them to second place in the historic medal table, with 15 maximum prizes.