Netherlands breaks Spain and Italy’s domination on final day of European Junior Artistic Swimming Championships

Credit to: European Aquatics

By Christina Marmet

On the final day of the European Aquatics Junior Artistic Swimming Championships in Malta, another nation finally broke through Spain and Italy’s dominance. Marloes Steenbeek of the Netherlands delivered a stunning performance in the Women Solo Technical final, claiming the European title and ultimately the sole gold that did not go to either of the two Mediterranean nations.

Spain and Italy, however, continued their impressive runs in the other events, with each country securing another gold in the Team Free and Men Solo Technical, respectively.

Spain topped the medal table again this year in a very dominant fashion, winning a medal in all 11 events on the programme, including five golds.

In the first final of this last day of competition in Malta, Steenbeek was outstanding with her routine set to “Hier Ben Ik”, a Dutch cover of the song” Voilà” by Barbara Pravi. She outscored 18 other competitors to claim her first European title with a total of 274.3816, while also marking a significant achievement for the Dutch team.

Steenbeek brings the Netherlands its first-ever European gold medal in the solo event, highlighting not only her individual talent but also the rise of the country in artistic swimming. European bronze medallist in this event and winner of the silver in Solo Free a few days ago, the 19-year-old now faces a very quick turnaround as she will compete again this weekend in the World Cup Super Final in Budapest.

After winning gold in the Solo Free, Isabel Shuang Cui Xu of Spain secured the silver in the technical event with a total 266.5449. The 17-year-old swam to the theme of “The Universe” and executed all her elements beautifully, but she unfortunately lacked in artistic impression to make up ground on the Dutch.

Bronze medallist in 2023, Oriane Jaillardon of France repeated her feat, scoring 261.5333 on her “Joyful madness” routine. It was a relatively close fight for the bronze medal between four athletes, as only 3.3632 points — which is a small margin in this new scoring system — separated Jaillardon from the sixth-place finisher, Maria Alavidze of Georgia.

Credit to: European Aquatics

In the Men Solo Technical final, the podium from the free event repeated itself, with the same athletes from Italy, Great Britain and Spain claiming the medals.

With his powerful performance, Filippo Pelati bagged a hat-trick of gold medals. The Italian swam first in the final and never let go of the top spot thanks to a score of 252.5700 on his “Dreaming amongst nature”.

Pelati had once again declared the highest Degree of Difficulty (DD) of the field, and successfully executed everything as planned to claim his third European title in Malta and Italy’s fifth gold medal.

After winning bronze in this event last season, Ranjuo Tomblin moved up to the silver medal position this year, with a score of 243.2799 on this “The Greatest Showman” routine. The British athlete wraps up his competition with an impressive haul of four medals — three silvers and one bronze — mirroring his success at the European Championships in Belgrade where he also claimed four medals.

Despite facing a back injury earlier in the year that limited his training, Tomblin has had an incredible season so far, showcasing remarkable resilience and skill while underscoring his status as a rising star in artistic swimming.

Jordi Caceres Iglesias earned the bronze medal with a score of 222.1916, swimming to the famous song “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. The Spaniard couldn’t quite manage a clean swim as he received a basemark on his final hybrid, but he still had a strong enough performance to secure his fourth medal overall of these championships.

The European Junior Championships wrapped up spectacularly with the Team Free final. In front of a full house, 11 teams from across the continent showcased their routines once more, after having had a few days to adjust and perfect every movement since the preliminary round.

Once again, Spain couldn’t be stopped as it claimed yet another gold medal, its fifth overall, with a score of 359.9125. Swimming to the theme of “Witches”, the Spaniards had declared the highest DD of the final, a huge 57.05 that would also certainly be competitive at the senior level.

They had an outstanding swim and finished over 57 points ahead of the silver medallists, leaving no doubt they were the best team.

After ranking third in the preliminaries, France had a much better performance on Tuesday to secure the silver medal with a score of 302.6188. The French showcased an engaging “Art” routine, one that was previously used by the senior team in 2022 and that earned them European bronze.

Greece jumped up from fifth in the preliminaries to third in the final, with a much-improved swim on their “Warriors” routine to score 298.1542. Six of the eight athletes who competed had won gold in this event at the European Aquatics Championships Belgrade 2024 three weeks ago, an experience which undoubtedly helped to boost the team in order to fight for a place on the podium until the very end.

Many of the athletes who competed in Malta will now turn their focus on the World Junior Championships, scheduled for late August in Lima, Peru.