Belgrade 2024: Golds for Austria, Great Britain and Germany on exciting day of artistic swimming

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

By Christina Marmet

Three more finals were contested on the penultimate day of artistic swimming at the 2024 European Championships in Belgrade, with athletes from Austria, Great Britain and Germany taking home the golds.

In the morning, the top 12 athletes after the preliminaries faced off once more in the Women’s Solo Free Final and fought for a place on the podium.

Shortly after, six men showcased their routines for the first time in Belgrade in the Men’s Solo Free Final.

The women’s podium looked quite familiar, as all three of the medallists were on the Solo Technical podium a few days ago.

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

It was yet another gold for Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria, who ends her season as a two-time European champion.

Bronze medallist at Roma 2022, the 26-year-old placed first in the preliminary round with her “Fight for Survival” choreography and stayed at the top today with a score of 257.4959.

“I am very happy since that was my goal from the beginning of the competition,” she said.

“I didn’t feel so good when I woke up today, but I felt I swam better than in the preliminary, so I am very happy that I achieved my goal.

“It was my last competition of the year. I am done, which I am so happy about because it was a very difficult season. Now, I can’t wait to go back to my family and my sisters at home.”

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

With a total of 253.4772, Klara Bleyer of Germany secured herself a second solo silver medal.

The reigning European Junior champion went all in for this final and had increased her Degree of Difficulty (DD) by 0.7 from the preliminaries on her “Mandalorian” routine.

The 20-year-old didn’t manage to quite catch up to Alexandri in the final despite receiving full credit for her high difficulty, but still landed Germany’s second – at the time – medal in Belgrade for artistic swimming.

“I am very happy about my performance and the result,” she said. “I am a little bit tired, I think everyone feels like this, so I am even happier that it all worked out today. We increased the difficulty a little bit from the preliminary, so I took it as a little bit of a challenge to see what I could do.”

Credit to: David Damjanovic, European Aquatics

Marloes Steenbeek of the Netherlands won her second bronze of these European Championships and her country’s third medal in Belgrade with a score of 238.1667.

Steenbeek had placed third in the preliminaries while counting one basemark, but she received full credit for her difficulty as she swam to the song “Golden Hour” by JVKE.

“It felt good in the water so I’m very happy,” she said. “I am done here, so no stress anymore.

“Now, we are going to prepare for the juniors, so I hope I can take this confidence with me to these competitions. It’s a busy season for me.”

Steenbeek’s season is indeed far from over, as the 19-year-old will compete next at the European Junior Championships, the World Junior Championships and the World Cup Super Final over the coming weeks.

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

History was made on the men’s side, with Ranjuo Tomblin of Great Britain claiming his first European title and the country’s first European gold in 39 years with a score of 191.0293.

After silver in Solo Technical and bronze in Mixed Duet Free, he now has a complete set of medals at these European Championships.

“Seeing European champion next to my name, I can’t even believe it,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever recover from this.

“I just came into this competition wanting to swim my best and with no basemarks, and to be able to do this… I can’t even put it into words. I’m still shaking. I think I’m dreaming, but I don’t think I am! It’s unbelievable.”

For his solo, the 18-year-old-picked the song “Natural” by Imagine Dragons, as he found its meaning about finding strength and determination in the face of adversity quite relevant in the wake of his back injury.

Tomblin isn’t done yet in Belgrade, as he will compete again on Friday in the Mixed Duet Technical final.

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

Giorgio Minisini of Italy came in as the reigning World and European champion but had to settle for silver this time with a score of 183.5313.

The 28-year-old swam to the poignant “Hallelujah” by Andrea Bocelli, but unfortunately received a basemark on one of his elements.

Even though the Italian received the highest artistic impression of the day, it wasn’t enough to stay ahead of Tomblin who had a clean swim.

“I know that my coaches talked to the technical controllers to understand what happened, because we watched the video a lot of times and we couldn’t see anything”, he said.

“I’m too tired and too old for that, for this kind of sport. I am just happy to finish the year.”

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

Coming in as the reigning European bronze medallist, Quentin Rakotomalala of France successfully defended his place on the podium with a score of 174.4708.

The Frenchman swam to the theme of “Cyborg” and had declared the highest DD of the field with 34.35, which he received full credit for.

“I’m happy, I swam well,” he said. “It was very hard because it was the morning, I could definitely feel it and I think it showed too, but I fought to the end.

“I was credited with my full difficulty, which was my primary objective, so I’m pleased. I did the job I came here to do.”

Three countries took to the pool in the afternoon for the Team Acrobatic final. The Team Acrobatic routine focuses on the acrobatic elements, where nations have to show seven acrobatic movements from different categories.

Although the competition was slightly delayed because of thunderstorms in the area, each team handled it beautifully and showcased sensational, high-flying routines.

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

The final rankings came down to the wire, with Germany ultimately claiming its first European Championships gold in artistic swimming.

The Germans performed a fast-paced and engaging choreography to the theme of “The Addams Family” and scored 192.7166 for gold.

They swam first and received a basemark on their second acrobatic movement, which meant they had to wait to know their fate. The nation was also the only mixed team in the final as it included history-making Frithjof Seidel, who in 2023 helped the squad win its first European team medal in 40 years.

“I feel relieved,” Seidel said. “When we left the pool, we didn’t know what the result would be. We knew that Italy had a really strong degree of difficulty and we saw their acrobatics during training, they’ve got an incredible flier.

“But obviously, we’ve got two incredible fliers as well. I’m really proud of us and all the girls. I think I still need a few more minutes, maybe days, to process all these emotions.”

Credit to: Aniko Kovacs, European Aquatics

The team of Greece performed its impressive “Snakes” routine, where all eight athletes truly got into character to portray the elusive reptile.

Unlike in other events, the Greek played it relatively safe with their difficulty. They only declared 21.75, which was slightly lower than their last time out at the Doha World Championships, where they had received two basemarks in the final. 

They still received a basemark and had to settle for silver with a score of 191.8100, only 0.9066 behind the Germans.

“We are excited, it’s still a medal and second place in Europe,” Athina Kamarinopoulou said.

“Of course, we wanted to win the gold. We did everything we could today, we gave our best. We didn’t make it, but it’s okay, we still have the final for the team free tomorrow, where we want to hear our national anthem.”

Italy earned the bronze with a total score of 159.2966 for its “Venice Carnival” routine. The Italians had declared the highest difficulty of the field (23.40) but received three basemarks and thus correspondingly high deductions.

“We are very, very sad,” Alessia Macchi said. “We made some mistakes that brought us to third place. We have to improve ourselves to get up in the rankings.”

The artistic swimming competition concludes on Friday in Belgrade with the Duet Technical and Mixed Duet Technical finals in the morning, followed by the Team Free Final and the Gala in the afternoon.

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