Chinese twin sisters forge their way to 4 golds

After Dutch twins Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer scored a remarkable 250.4979 points in Thursday's artistic swimming duet free final, spectators in Doha held their

breath as the final pair, Chinese twins Wang Liuyi and Wang Qianyi, took to the water.

Wang Liuyi/Wang Qianyi of China perform during the artistic swimming women's duet technical final at the World Aquatics Championships 2024 in Doha, Qatar, Feb. 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Du Yu)

The 27-year-old sisters presented their theme of "The Cheetahs", displaying both grace and explosive power, a departure from their serene "Lotus" theme showcased in the duet technical event earlier.

Their mastery of two contrasting styles underscored the duo's prowess as they clinched victory by a narrow margin of 0.275, securing their fourth gold medal at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships.

"After Fukuoka 2023, we had to prepare for the Hangzhou Asian Games and quickly adjust our mindset. It was a challenging period," said Qianyi, who took one silver medal with her sister in the duet free, but failed to step onto the podium in the duet technical at last year's world championships. That was a blow to them, as they had set their sights on victory before the competition.

"With encouragement from our coaches and family, we gradually regained our focus. The four gold medals are a testament to our hard work during that time," Qianyi concluded.

The sisters' bond with swimming actually stemmed from a safety concern -- their parents wanted them to learn swimming to prevent drowning.

"There happened to be a swimming pool downstairs in our neighborhood, so my husband asked his friend, who had retired from the provincial swimming team, to teach them. This friend recognized the sisters' talent and suggested they receive better training," said their mother, Li Qiaofang.

"At that time, our friend thought artistic swimming would suit them well, so he introduced us to it. Before that, we had never even heard of it," she added.

The eight-year-old sisters quickly developed an interest in this artistic sport, thus began the journey of them into the world of artistic swimming. The natural bond between the twins made it easier for them to achieve the demanding synchronicity required in duet events, according to their coach Wang Jiuli.

"The twins have a natural rapport. Once they discuss the moves, they almost instantly sync up, while others need repeated practice to match," Wang explained.

The parents would either drive them or rent a car to take them to the sports center for a two-and-a-half-hour practice session every afternoon. During that time, they frequently competed in youth competitions, and each win only fueled their passion for the sport.

They idolized another Chinese twin duo, Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting, who were their predecessors, and set them as their inspiration and goal.

Wang also expressed her admiration for the sisters' dedication to enhancing their artistic skills.

"They learned makeup, piano, ballet, and more, always dedicating themselves wholeheartedly," she said, "Their training and competition tasks were never taken lightly, always exhibiting the highest level of focus and commitment."

As the sisters gradually rose, their dedication paid off. In the 2010 Guangdong Provincial Games, the 13-year-old duo gave a stunning display, representing their hometown Shenzhen and clinching the championship.

Their success continued to soar, and in 2017, they finally made it to the national team. At the 2022 Budapest World Championships, they secured four gold medals, earning the title of "Quad Queens." And in Doha, they once again replicated that glory.

Despite their achievements, the sisters remain humble, rating their performance at 80 of 100 points in Doha.

"It's better to be humble. And we still have room to improve," Liuyi remarked.

At the Tokyo 2020, Liuyi was absent due to injury, leaving only Qianyi to compete in Japan. Now, they both aim to stand side by side in Paris Olympics a few months later, seeking to make up for past regrets.

"Even though I couldn't participate in the last Olympics, our hearts were always together. I believe our efforts are headed in the right direction, and I hope we can perform well at this time," Qianyi said.