On the central court of Feria Valencia, the gymnasts of the Spanish national team Ana Arnau, Inés Bergua, Mireia Martínez, Patricia Pérez and Salma Solaún train on the eve of the start of the World Cup. To the rhythm of a fallas song and the sound of a mascletà, the Spanish women throw the ribbons into the air and spin the balls. And silence falls under the watchful eye of the runners-up in Rio 2016 known as El Equipaso, made up of their own coach Alejandra Quereda, Artemi Gavezou, Lourdes Mohedano, Elena López and Sandra Aguilar, who also act as ambassadors of the championship.
“Valencia is the land of flowers, light and love”, sounds in the pavilion with a capacity of 6,100 seats. And, starting this week, Valencia is also the land of rhythmic gymnastics. The Valencian capital hosts the fortieth edition of the World Championship. Tickets sold out in two hours.
222 gymnasts from 62 countries will fight from today until Sunday to qualify for the Paris 2024 Games. The great challenge for the Spanish team led by the Alicante and Olympic runner-up Alejandra Quereda is to get the two individual places for Polina Berezina and Alba Bautista. “Both are trained and prepared. We have two super even gymnasts and I don’t want to lose focus on that great goal that is to achieve two places. Until now they have been in qualifying positions in all international competitions, in this case we depend on ourselves”.
The coach, who has not stopped proudly repeating that Spain had not had such a competitive team for years, fully trusts Berezina, who was born 25 years ago in Russia but has lived in Guardamar de Segura (Alicante) since she was three years old, and Bautista , 21 years old and born in Utrillas (Teruel). “That they have done the preparation together has added a lot to us. Polina is a very veteran gymnast, with a lot of experience and a lot of body control. Bautista is a very emotional gymnast that I think is going to make the most of the heat from the public to shine”.
Although the Spanish team is already classified for Paris, they want to reign in Valencia. “We are not satisfied with the square, which is clear that it was the main objective of the cycle. The group is ready to fight for everything”, reflects Quereda.
For five days, the Valencia Fair will host the best in the world in a fairground that has been designed from scratch. Furthermore, no country has hosted more rhythmic gymnastics World Championships than Spain: Valencia is the fifth Spanish city to host the closing event of the season, which has also taken place in Madrid (1975, 2001), Valladolid (1985), Alicante (1993) and Seville (1998). A push for the national team, which will feel accompanied by its public.
Among the more than 200 participants, the Italian Sofia Raffaeli (ITA) stands out, who won five medals, four gold and one bronze, at the 2022 World Championship in Bulgaria, as well as the German Darja Varfolomeev, whose victory with the clubs in 2022 it made her the first gymnast from a unified Germany to capture a world title and the Bulgarian Boryana Kaleyn, who was proclaimed European champion this year for the first time in her sports career.
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