In her first international competition in two years, because she took a break after the Olympic Games in Tokyo to devote herself to her medical studies, the artistic swimmer Jacqueline Simoneau shines in Doha, where the World Aquatics Championships have been taking place since Friday.
On Saturday she won the first medal of her career at the World Championships with silver in the technical solo. On Tuesday, she continued her momentum and won gold in the free skate.
This solo gold medal is the first at the World Championships since Sylvie Fréchette's in 1991. Three-time Olympic medalist Carolyn Waldo also won solo gold at the 1982 and 1986 World Championships.
“I couldn’t be happier,” she said as we joined her on the bus that took her back to the hotel. I still don't know that I've won gold on the biggest international stage. This medal is the result of all the work I have done throughout my career. It was very special when I heard the Canadian national anthem. I cried.”
A shared moment with loved ones
The two-time Olympian was able to share this unique moment with her parents and boyfriend, who traveled to Qatar. “When I received my medal, I looked at my parents and my friend in the stands and it warmed my heart to share that moment with them. They had decided to make the trip because it could be my last competition if we didn't qualify for the Paris Olympics. My parents were always there.”
Simoneau also had a good idea for the leaders of the podiatry doctoral program at UQTR. “I feel very privileged to be back in the water and am very grateful that I was able to pursue my sporting dreams. I would also like to thank my physiotherapist and my masseur, without whom I would not be here.”
If the main goal of this trip to Qatar is to qualify the Canadian team, as well as the duo she forms with Audrey Lamothe, for the Paris Games, the fact remains that her solo performances are not an Olympic event that attracts attention.
End of a long drought
Simoneau ended Canada's losing streak at the World Championships. The last medal before Saturday came in 2011 in the free combination. Solo we had to go even further back to 2009 when Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon won bronze in Rome.
“I'm turning the page immediately because the free duet with Audrey Lamothe starts on Wednesday. The focus is on Olympic qualification. As a team, we performed well in our debut on Tuesday and are in a good position.” Canada placed 6th in the technical program.
More objective grades
The new grading system, which rewards the difficulty of the program, greatly benefits Simoneau. “It helps me, but it also helps all countries that have a chance now,” she explained. The grades awarded are more objective rather than relying on reputation and that was the aim of this change.
Simoneau cited two examples that occurred Tuesday. “Great Britain won their first medal on the international stage, while Thailand reached the final as a team for the first time. This is great for our sport.”
Simoneau, whose routine had the second highest difficulty level among the 12 finalists, scored 264.8207 points compared to 253.2833 for Greece's Evangelia Platanioto and 245.1042 for Russia's Vasilina Khandoshka, who swam in neutral colors.