Darja Varfolomeev, Sofia Raffaeli continue to make history at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships

The 15-year-old is the first gold medallist for a united Germany at the event

By Scott Bregman

Germany's Darja Varfolomeev and Italy's Sofia Raffaeli continued their history-making performances Thursday (15 September) during the second day of individual apparatus finals at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

In the clubs final, it was a first-ever gold medal for Varfolomeev and a united Germany at the event. The win came one day after she became her nation's first rhythmic gymnastics world medallist.

“Germany succeeding here? I can’t even explain what it means to me," she told Olympics.com afterward. "I am overwhelmed with emotions right now. The main thing is that we will not stop and we will continue working the way we do.”

After a stellar performance, Varfolomeev could not contain her joy as her score, 33.550, flashed, bursting into tears almost instantly.

“I was dreaming maybe of coming second or third. But first? I had such a dream but couldn’t imagine it’s possible to become world champion," she said. "Now the focus is all-around [final], and qualification for the Olympics would be another dream come true.”

The event's top qualifier, Bulgaria's Stiliana Nikolova, shook off an early error where she dropped both clubs while performing a mastery behind her back to post a 32.600 score for silver. Her routine was set to Michael Sembello's Maniac.

Raffaeli, who won both the hoop and ball titles on night one, looked as though she could have challenged for gold but suffered several drops of the clubs throughout her exercise and had to settle for bronze with 31.850.

Italy's Sofia Raffaeli performs with ribbon during the apparatus final at the 2022 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Picture by Simone Ferraro

That seemed like a distant memory half an hour later when she grabbed her third gold of the championships in the ribbon final. Her 32.650 score was .800 better than Nikolova's 31.850.

"I did my best for the last exercise in this world championships final," said Raffaeli afterward. "I'm excited to compete in all four finals because last year, I only competed in one or two finals. It's a very big emotion."

Slovenia's Ekaterina Vedeneeva earned a 29.900 for bronze, the first medal of any colour for her nation at the rhythmic worlds.

“I really want to elevate the sport and that’s why I keep competing at twenty eight years old," said Vedeneeva. "I think rhythmic gymnastics can be deep and mature, and I want to keep paving the way for the other gymnasts from Slovenia. I don’t want to give up and want to show that everything is possible.”

The first tickets to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are on offer Friday (16 September) as the group all-around title will be determined, with the medallists punching tickets for their National Olympic Committees.

Competition continues on Saturday (17 September) with three more quota spots up for grabs in the individual all-around final. The group apparatus finals take center stage on the final day of competition Sunday (18 September).

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