Major medal breakthroughs for Croatia and Portugal at Rijeka 2023

By Nick Hope
Aquatics correspondent in Rijeka

Croatia’s Matej Nevešćanin claimed his nation’s first-ever European Junior Diving Championship gold medal with a dominant display in the Boys A 1m springboard final on the third day of Rijeka 2023.

The 16-year-old topped the standings after the morning preliminary competition, but faced a tough challenge in the final against a host of talented opponents.

Among them was senior World and European medallist Matteo Santoro of Italy.

The Croatian ultimately delivered the performance of his life though to claim a maiden European Junior Diving title with a combined score of 499.60.

“It was really hard after coming first in the preliminary and having to prove that it wasn’t an accident and I hope I did prove that,” Nevešćanin told LEN.

“I’m really happy to get this first gold for Croatia at this big competition, but I’m a sportsman so I have more events and I will go back to work hard in the weeks ahead.”

Jonathan Schauer of Germany, who had led at one stage during the final, took silver with a score of 488.90, while Santoro (487.10) rounded off the podium places.

“I’m happy with my performance as I’ve had a hard time where I’ve not trained so much because of an injury on my foot, so I’m happy,” Schauer told LEN.

Santoro, who has competed at the European Games and World Championships in recent months, added; “I’m so tired, so I’m really happy with the results because my legs were (fatigued), but I also the sun and being tanned, so this is a great venue!”

The Girls A line-up, for 16-18-year-olds, also produced a fascinating platform final.

Spaniard Ana Carvajal led heading into the final round, but a low-scoring dive saw her drop out of the podium places into fourth.

Italian Irene Pesce delivered when it mattered most, with her combined score of 367.25 enough to take the title.

“I’m very happy and very proud because I fought against many things in diving and I had fears, but in the end I won the gold,” Pesce told LEN.

Luisa Fragoeiro-Arco of Portugal (351.15) claimed her nation’s first-ever European Junior Diving Championship medal with silver, while Cloe Gravalos Simon of Spain (346.65) was third.

“I’m very proud, it’s always been a dream of mine to win a medal for Portugal and I’m very happy because this is a dream come true,” Fragoeiro-Arco told LEN after the final.

“No one has ever won a diving medal for Portugal before and I’m hoping to inspire a lot of young children there to take up this sport.

“I think there’s a lot of potential (in the country) because we have the facilities and I think we can get the excitement going!”

Spaniard Gravalos Simon added; “I came here two years ago and I came away with no sensations, but now I have my first European medal, so I’m very proud of it.”

Each session from Rijeka 2023 can be followed live on the LEN YouTube Channel, while live scores can be accessed HERE.

For further information about the competition, head to the official Rijeka 2023 website.