This week, artistic swimming returns to the European Games programme for the first time since 2015. Back then, the competition was only open to junior athletes, and then didn’t appear in the 2018 edition.
In Oświęcim, Poland, artistic swimmers from 25 countries will compete across eight events. While solos are not on the schedule, LEN has decided to keep the free combination event this year (In World Aquatics events, it is only for the Under-12 and Youth categories).
2023 has been a year of major change in artistic swimming with the implementation of the new scoring system. Various changes and adjustments have been made throughout the year. More recently, the construction of a free hybrid’s Degree of Difficulty (DD) has been modified since the World Cup Super Final, which was the last major international meet.
One thing is certain: this competition will be all about who has managed to adapt quickly enough and who has remained flexible throughout the whole year.
More importantly, these III European Games will serve as a duet qualifier to the 2024 Olympic Games. The pair with the highest combined score of technical and free duet routine will earn a continental quota and qualify to the Games. As the host, France is already qualified to Paris in the duet and team events.
Some of the favorites for this quota include Anna-Maria and Eirini Alexandri from Austria, Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva from Ukraine, Linda Cerruti and Lucrezia Ruggiero from Italy, and Alisa Ozhogina and Iris Tio from Spain. All athletes are tremendously experienced and have won medals in the duet events throughout the World Cup circuit this year.
The Ukrainians are the only ones to have competed in both technical and free duet events this year. The Spanish pair has only shown its technical routine so far through three World Cup legs. The Austrians and Italians have only competed once and in only one event, so it will be interesting to see what they have been up to since.
The fight for this quota will not be a walk in the park. One pair that certainly should not be counted out and that could threaten some of the favorites is Israel’s, with Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee. The two have certainly made waves so far this season, winning two historical gold medals in tech and free, notably ahead of Ukraine, the reigning European champions and World silver medalists. Their last gold came in the free event only two weeks ago at the Super Final where they showed the most difficult routine so far.
Bregje de Brouwer and Marloes Steenbeek from the Netherlands have showed great consistency throughout the season as well, steadily improving through three World Cups. They never received any base marks so far this season and won three medals on the circuit. Similarly, the Olympian duet of Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe from Great Britain will be one to keep an eye on. The two looked strong at the Montpellier World Cup, earning bronze in free and finished fourth in tech.
Three-time Olympian Evangelia Platanioti from Greece is one of the veterans of this competition, but she will only swim in the technical duet alongside Sofia-Evangelia Malkogeorgou. The Greek will thus not fight for this Olympic duet quota. They have not competed internationally since the 2022 European Championships where they placed fourth.
Duets from Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey round out the field. Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Slovenia and Turkey will make their first appearance of the year. Unfortunately, Switzerland had to withdraw from the duet competition due to an injury to Margaux Varesio. Overall, France, Greece and Turkey will only compete in the tech event, while Georgia and Germany will only feature in the free event.
The mixed duets will appear at the European Games for the first time. Reigning World and European champions Giorgio Minisini and Lucrezia Ruggiero of Italy will highlight the field of competitors. The two have yet to compete this season in these events and will undoubtedly look forward to finally showing their new choreographies.
Spain will also be a favorite for the mixed duet medals. The nation finished at the top of the leaderboard in the event in the World Cup circuit. Last time out at the World Cup Super Final, World and European junior champion Dennis Gonzalez Boneu had just returned after missing two competitions with a foot injury. There, he won gold alongside Emma Garcia and bronze with Mireia Hernandez. Per the start lists, they all should compete again in the same events in Oświęcim.
The pairs from Belgium, Germany and Serbia will also compete in Oświęcim. The three have been fixtures of the World Cup circuit this season, repeatedly testing out their routines and adapting to the new system. They will be joined by the young mixed pair from Great Britain, which has already appeared in the Montpellier and Oviedo World Cup legs. France and Bulgaria round out the field. This will be Bulgaria‘s first representation in this event on the European stage.
A few more medals will be up for grabs in four team events: technical team, free team, acrobatic team, and free combination. Ukraine is the reigning European Champion across all four and will certainly be a team to watch. The Ukrainians have been particularly successful so far this season in the acrobatic team, winning three gold medals across the three World Cups they participated in. Unfortunately, they have also struggled on the other team events, going for very high DDs but often receiving numerous base marks that left them outside of the podium.
Italy, European silver medalists last year in all four team events, is set to make their season debuts in Oświęcim. The Italian squad saw a massive turnover after last year’s Europeans. Olympic teammates Domiziana Cavanna, Costanza di Camillo, Costanza Ferro, Gemma Galli, and Federica Sala decided to end their international careers after a last performance in Roma in front of their home crowd. The only remaining Tokyo Olympians on the squad are Linda Cerruti and Enrica Piccoli. Four-time European silver medalists Marta Iacoacci and Francesca Zunino are also returning to the team.
Overall, this new Italian team is a mix of senior athletes, some of who have been waiting in the wings as part of the “B” team over the last quad, and of younger junior athletes, like 15-year-old Sarah Maria Rizea or 16-year-olds Flaminia Vernice and Ginevra Marchetti. All three have however already competed in a few World Cups this year with the junior team, and were also silver medalists at the 2022 European Youth Championships.
Excitingly, Giorgio Minisini is listed on the team roster for all three Olympic team events, and as a reserve for the free combination routine. The only other man set to swim in a team event at this meet is Frithjof Seidel, who should take part in Germany’s free combination routine.
Greece will also make its first appearance of the season here, although it will only show its technical team routine. The squad has stayed relatively steady since last year, with 10 athletes from 2022 returning. The sole newcomer on this European Games’ team is 16-year-old Thaleia Dampali, who was the country’s soloist at last year’s European Youth Championships.
Spain will return to the European stage after skipping out on the European Championships last year (except in the mixed duet). The Spanish squad has competed in the technical and acrobatic team event this season, notably winning a gold in the former at the World Cup Super Final. In Oświęcim, they should unveil their free team routine for the first time, and again perform in technical team.
Just like in the duet, don’t miss Israel. The team has finely optimized its routines to adapt to the new scoring system, winning four medals across three World Cups this year so far, including one gold in free team at the Super Final. France, three-time European bronze medalist in 2022, is set to show the same events as it has done through the World Cups this season.
Teams from Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey make up the rest of the field. All will make their first appearance of the season.
The competition schedule as well as all relevant information to follow the meet is available here.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Anh Viêt CHAU
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