by Christina Marmet
The 2023 LEN European Junior Artistic Swimming Championships came to an end in Funchal with the final gold medals awarded to Italy and Spain.
The day got off to a fabulous start for Italy, with Alessia Macchi and Susanna Pedotti securing the country’s second gold in the Duet Technical. After earning silver in the Duet Free two days ago, the Italians scored 221.0600 for their “Cruella” choreography and became the new European Junior Champions in the event.
Alisa Kulyk and Ameliia Volynska of Ukraine clinched the silver medal with a 215.2133 for their routine set to the theme of “Always a Way.” The two, competing in the junior category for the first time, had also claimed a medal, bronze, in the Duet Free final.
Meritxell Ferré Gaset and Lilou Lluis Valette of Spain won bronze for their “Water”-themed routine with a score of 205.1950. The pair actually received a base mark, dropping their Degree of Difficulty (DD) from 25.45 to 20.40, but their high artistic impression score of 95.6500 helped them to third place.
The European Junior title in the Mixed Duet Technical remained with Spain, the reigning champions of Spain. Maria Bofill Strub and Dennis Gonzalez Boneu were incredible in their routine set to a remix of Vivaldi’s “Winter” and scored 221.3850 for the gold. The Spaniards not only were credited with the highest declared DD of the field (27.95) but they also received a massive 96.7000 in artistic impression, hence ensuring themselves and Spain another title in Funchal.
“Our focus was on our elements, all we wanted to avoid was getting basemarks,” Gonzalez Boneu said. “So today the figures, the artistic part, were kind of secondary, we went for the best possible execution. I think we swam well and did our best and the result reflected this.”
Quentin Rakotomalala and Prune Tapié of France clinched silver with a 203.1617 for their “Fandango” routine while Ginevra Marchetti and Gabriele Minak of Italy grabbed bronze with 201.0833 with their choreography set to “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner.
The two pairs actually had the same DD of 26.25 and while the Italians were superior in artistic impression, the French’s strong execution and cleaner swim with fewer synchronization errors were the true difference-makers in the end.
The Team Free final offered a thrilling finish to the competition as Italy clinched its second gold of the day by only 0.4914 points ahead of Spain, the defending European Junior Champions.
With its “Inclusion” routine, Italy claimed the top spot with a score of 258.5435. The nation had actually placed fifth in the preliminary round after receiving three base marks. Ahead of this final, the Italians had played it safe and slightly decreased their DD to 38.735. The strategy paid off as they had no issues this time around and no base marks.
“This was a perfect day, we are really overjoyed with these gold medals,” Alessia Macchi said. “The team title is really special and makes us absolutely happy as we practiced our routine for only a week before the championships. The duet was fantastic, we didn’t even hope we could get two gold medals here, it’s like a dream for both of us and for all of us!”
Spain had to settle for silver with 258.0521 for its “Witches” routine. The Spaniards had increased their DD by 0.15 since the preliminary round, where they had placed second, to reach 36.95. In the final, they put out a strong performance, not incurring any base marks and receiving the highest artistic impression score (115.8500), but it wasn’t quite enough to match Italy’s high difficulty.
The team of Greece, fourth in 2022, grabbed the bronze with a score of 251.8521 for its “Warriors” routine. The Greek had placed first in the preliminary round and were again awarded their full 39.65 DD. Unfortunately, they could not quite catch up to Italy and Spain, which had much stronger showings than in the preliminary.
Ultimately, Spain will leave Funchal at the top of the medal table, tallying 10 medals in total across 11 events: five golds, three silvers and two bronze.