Jacqueline Simoneau is World Champion.

The 2-time Olympian, owner of over 70 medals in her international career since she burst on the scene over ten years ago, can now add a gold medal at the World Championships to her resume. This one came in the Solo Free event, which she won in convincing fashion in the evening session of Day 5 at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships.

In third position after the preliminary round, Simoneau went for broke in the finals and declared a monster degree of difficult of 49.150, the second highest DD ever declared in international competition for the solo free event. This was an increase of 7.4 points from her preliminary difficulty score, and involved making significant changes to the routine. It also meant having to perform this revamped routine in a World Championships with minimal practice.

“I took a big gamble tonight,” said Simoneau, “but I was ready for the consequences. I knew I was either getting a medal or that I could come in last. In the end, the way we changed the routine actually gave me a little bit more time to breathe in between the really tough hybrids, which I was accepted with a big smile on my face. I’m obviously very happy the strategy worked out in the end.”

Swimming third to last in these finals, Simoneau was awarded full difficulty by the judges and posted a solo free world record score of 264.0287, more than 10 points above the gold-medal winning score from the Fukuoka World Championships 7 months ago. Already assured of a podium finish, there were some tense moments as she waited for the last 2 competitors to perform to get confirmation of her first place finish.

“Obviously as a competitor you go for gold, but tonight I was just satisfied knowing that I had given it everything I had.”

In the end, Simoneau’s score remained unmatched and she won gold ahead of solo technical gold medalist Evangelia Platanioti, from Greece, and Neutral Independent Athlete Vaselina Khandoshka. She lived the moment backstage with members of her coaching team Kerri Morgan and Kasia Kulesza, while on a video call with long-time coach and choreographer of the gold-medal routine Karine Doré, who was back in Montreal.

Her words when she found out: “We did it!”

“It’s unreal. This medal doesn’t just represent this one performance. It represents everything and everyone that’s gone into getting me to this point: the coaches, my parents, the many consultants – it’s the culmination of everyone’s effort. I’m just feeling incredibly grateful right now for everyone’s contribution.”

Gratefulness was one of the theme of Jaqueline’s solo as she had the names of some of her career’s key contributors etched into her routine suit, keeping them close to her heart as she swam for Canada.

The medal was the first gold for Canada in artistic swimming since Sylvie Fréchette won gold 33 years ago, also in solo, at the 1991 World Championships in Perth, Australia.

Receiving heartfelt congratulations backstage from artistic swimming legends Ona Carbonell and Virginie Dedieu, Simoneau soaked in the accolades and the recognition, but was quick to transition to the resolve and determination that have characterized her illustrious career. With less than 12 hours to go before having to compete again, this time in the duet free preliminaries with partner Audrey Lamothe, it was all business again.

“It’s what we do, it’s what we train for. We turn the page, get a good sleep, and tomorrow we come in ready to do it again.”

The words of a champion.