The 2023 LEN European Junior Artistic Swimming Championships got underway today in Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira. For five days, the top up-and-coming athletes of the continent aged between 15 and 20 years old compete in the first major junior international competition under the new artistic swimming rules.
The first medals of the championships were awarded on August 2nd, Wednesday evening, in the team technical event, which saw seven nations participate. The same countries as in 2022 found themselves again on the podium, albeit in a slightly different order.
Gold went to the defending champions Spain, who were unbeatable with their “Namasté” routine. The Spaniards scored 237.6250 and were credited their full Degree of Difficulty (DD) of 30.95. They were ultimately the only team of the final to not receive any base marks on their elements — a base mark is the difficulty value that will be credited to each element when it is not performed as declared. It is inherently lower and hence will significantly impact a routine’s total.
In Funchal, the Italians moved up to the silver medal position thanks to a score of 207.5483, although with two base marks, for their “Fire” choreography. The French squad scored 199.7533 and earned bronze for their “Daft Punk” routine. They had the highest declared DD of the field, 34.70, but also had trouble executing everything properly. They ultimately received two base marks as well for a total DD of 21.70.
The competition started off in the morning with the female solo free preliminary, where 18 athletes vied for a spot in the top 12 to qualify to the final. Five soloists were fresh out of competing in the same event at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka. All ultimately placed in the top five in this preliminary round.
Klara Bleyer of Germany finished first with a score of 195.8563. The 19-year-old came into this event with the second-highest declared DD of the field with a 34.10. Even though she received a base mark, her strong performance was still enough to qualify for the final in the top spot.
Susanna Pedotti of Italy, reigning European junior silver medallist, finished second with a 186.2708, while Laelys Alavez of France, fourth in 2022, received 177.6104 for third place.
Fellow World Championships competitors Maria Alavidze of Georgia and Ece Üngör of Türkiye ranked fourth and fifth respectively. Üngör just made history in Fukuoka by qualifying to the solo free final, hence bringing her country to a World Championship artistic swimming final for the very first time.
Soloists from Spain, Great Britain, Greece, Austria, Czechia, Sweden, and Finland have also qualified to the solo free final scheduled for Saturday.
The competition continues tomorrow with the Duet Free Preliminary at 09:30, followed by the Female and Male Solo Technical Finals as well as the Free Combination Routine Final at 17:00.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Photos courtesy of LEN
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