It was a golden return to the competitive swimming pool for Jacqueline Simoneau and Claudia Holzner at the FINA Artistic Swimming World Series (ASWS) #2 in Budapest, Hungary this past weekend. Although the two Canadians had not competed in a live event in over a year and a half, they won both the technical and free duet events, and Jacqueline matched that with double gold in the two solo events.
As Claudia indicated on her Instagram page it “feels good to be back in a competition pool after not competing since 2019.” She also thanked the organizers (FINA and Hungary Synchronized Swimming) “for organizing such a great (and safe!!!) bubble for us to compete in during these times!”
In duet, the 2019 Pan American champions started off the first day by winning the technical routine with a score of 88.3284 points. In second place were sisters Anna-Maria and Eirini Alexandri, representing Austria, with 87.2604. Shelly Bobritsky and Eden Blecher of Israel placed third with 83.1200 points.
On the second day, April 11th, the two swam their free routine, which has been designed with the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in mind. Both athletes have travelled to Japan throughout their careers and have enjoyed soaking up the lifestyle and customs. Working with choreographer Denise Sauvé, they chose music to pay homage to Japanese culture, and incorporated many of their favourite things about Japan into the routine.
It was well received, scoring 90.3668 as the Canadian duet continued their dominance of the event, winning gold. The Austrian duo and the Israeli pair again finished in the silver and bronze medal positions.
Jacqueline reflected on the swim in an interview with Sportcom that “I think it was one of our best swims! It’s one of the toughest routines I’ve seen internationally and we were able to do it well.”
Shortly after winning the gold medal in the duet technical, Jacqueline was back in the pool to compete in the solo technical. With a score of 89.2788, she finished first, winning her second gold medal of the day, ahead of Austria’s Vasiliki Alexandri, who scored 87.6495 and Liechtenstein’s Lara Mechnig who took third with a score of 80.9871.
The next day, Jacqueline completed the four-gold medal sweep by winning the solo free routine. This was the 2nd time she had competed this routine, having won gold at the 1st leg in the FINA ASWS event, held virtually and hosted by USA Artistic Swimming. This program, to music sung in French by Kazakh artist Dimash Qudaibergen, was choreographed by National Team Assistant Coach Karine Doré. It highlights her artistry and musical interpretation, that when combined with her technical ability and athleticism, creates a dynamic, well-received routine.
In the solo free, Jacqueline scored 91.0668, well ahead of Vasiliki Alexandri from Austria at 88.7667 and Slovakia’s Nada Daabousova finished third with 78.3333 points.
In her post-event interview with Sportcom, Jacqueline indicated she received tremendous feedback on her performance. “The routine was really well accepted, not only from the judges, but also from the other countries present. Several athletes and coaches came to me to tell me how much they appreciated it and it was really nice to receive all the positive comments, ”she said.
Returning home, both Jacqueline and Claudia, along with National Team Assistant Coach Kasia Kulesza who accompanied them to Budapest, will follow the hotel and self-quarantine guidelines as outlined in Canada’s Covid-19 protocols. They will then resume training with the rest of the National Artistic Swimming Team for upcoming spring competitions and then the Olympic Games in July 2021.