Sofia Raffaeli wins all-around gold at 2022 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships and secures Olympic qualification for Italy

Medallists from Italy, Germany and Bulgaria punched tickets for their National Olympic Committees to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

By Scott Bregman

Sofia, Bulgaria, has been good to Italy's Sofia Raffaeli.

The 18-year-old captured the all-around title Saturday (17 September) at the 2022 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships inside Armeets Arena in the Bulgarian capital. The medal is the fourth gold and fifth overall individual medal of the event for Raffaeli.

"It means very, very much because this medal is for Italy... for my family, for my coaches," said Raffaeli. "I am so happy for this."

Across the four apparatus, Raffaeli totalled a 133.250. Germany's Darja Varfolomeev (132.450) was the silver medallist, while Bulgaria's Stiliana Nikolova (128.800) took the bronze.

All three medalists earned quota spots for their National Olympic Committees at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

"[Going to Paris,] it's my dream. I will be trying these next two years to work to improve myself so I can arrive strong at the Olympics and the World Championships next year," said Raffaeli.

Raffaeli's win made history as she becomes both the first Italian to win the world all-around title and the first Italian to win a medal of any colour in the all-around final. Varfolomeev's silver is a first in the all-around for a united Germany. Nikolova is the first Bulgarian to make the all-around podium since Simona Peycheva took silver in 2001.

The three medalists began to separate themselves early in the competition, setting up a showdown in the final rotation. Performing last of the contenders, Raffaelli needed better than 33.450 for her ball routine. She delivered a 34.250, her highest score of the day, to secure the gold. She also earned scores of 33.800, hoop; 32.250, clubs; and 32.950, ribbon.

"I think after the ball, I didn't know if I had won or not. When the score arrived, I was very happy," said Raffaeli. "I am very excited for this medal."

Varfolomeev's individual apparatus scores were 32.850, hoop; 33.400, ball; 33.750, clubs; and 32.450, ribbon, while Nikolova posted marks of 33.450, hoop; 32.600, ball; 32.600, clubs; and 30.150, ribbon.

"For the past few days, I had a storm of messages and support. My parents called me and said: 'You are the new world clubs champion, so you realise that?' The truth is, I still don’t," said Varfolomeev. "I felt the pressure today because I knew that the stakes are high and the fact that Germany has a slot for Paris now is so cool."

Said Nikolova: "It means a lot to me. I'm very happy to achieve this goal."

In Friday's group all-around competition, Bulgaria, Israel, and Spain won gold, silver and bronze, respectively, and punched their tickets to the Paris Games.

Competition in Sofia wraps up Sunday (18 September) with the group apparatus finals.

Darja Varfolomeev performs with hoop during the all-around final at the 2022 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships

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