Spain Sweeps Medals in All Events at European Junior Championships

Spain topped the European Junior Championships medal table again this year in a very commanding fashion, winning a medal in all 11 events on the programme. Overall, both Spain and Italy displayed dominance throughout the competition, each claiming five golds.

However, on the final day, Marloes Steenbeek of the Netherlands broke through, winning gold in the technical solo event — the only gold that didn’t go to either Mediterranean nation.

Spain‘s performance in Malta was truly outstanding across the board. The team clinched the gold medal in the technical team and free team events, while Naia Álvarez and Rocío Calle were unbeatable in the duet, bringing home the titles in the technical and free events. 


In solo, Isabel Shuang was outstanding in her second European Junior Championships, but first as a soloist, claiming the European title in free solo with her “Fall in Love” routine and also securing a silver in technical solo.

On the men’s side, Jordi Caceres claimed three bronze medals in the technical solo, free solo, and technical mixed duet, as well as a silver in free mixed duet. Despite being the oldest male athlete in the finals, this season marks his first foray into international competition, making his achievements even more remarkable. 

Finally, Spain also secured a bronze in the acrobatic event. Overall, the nation has adapted exceptionally well to the new rules in every age group, particularly excelling in the junior competitions. They have managed to maintain a sound and successful balance between a high (yet realistic) degree of difficulty, clear execution, and strong artistry.

For Italy, this competition was essentially gold or bust; all five medals the nation claimed in Malta were gold. Filippo Pelati bagged a hat-trick of European titles after winning the technical solo, free solo, and free mixed duet events. 

Ginevra Marchetti and Gabriele Minak, two-time bronze medalists in 2023 but competing internationally for the first time this year, became European Champions in the technical mixed duet with their “Icarus” choreography. Finally in the acrobatic team, Italy was the only squad to manage a clean performance, hence securing the gold there as well with their “Dragons” routine.

The sole gold medal that didn’t go to either Spain or Italy went to the Netherlands. On the last day of competition, Marloes Steenbeek delivered a stunning performance in the women’s technical solo final, swimming to “Hier Ben Ik”, a Dutch cover of the song” Voilà” by Barbara Pravi and scoring 274.3816. She not only claimed the European Junior title, but also made history as this medal is the Netherlands’ first-ever European gold in solo.

Winner of the silver in free solo only 24 hours earlier, the 19-year-old and two-time European bronze medalist now faces a very quick turnaround as she will compete again this weekend in the World Cup Super Final in Budapest.

Ranjuo Tomblin of Great Britain leaves Malta with an impressive medal haul — three silvers and one bronze — mirroring his success at the European Championships where he also claimed four medals. 

The 18-year-old, who won Great Britain’s first European gold in 39 years in Belgrade just a few weeks ago in the free solo, had to settle for silver this time in this event with a score of 216.2063. Even though his heartfelt performance to “Natural” by Imagine Dragons was greatly rewarded by the artistic impression judges, he ultimately couldn’t fend off Pelati and his higher difficulty.

In the mixed duet routines, he swam alongside Loya Cenkci and Holly Hughes for the first time, as his longtime partner Beatrice Crass is no longer eligible for junior competitions. Cenkci formerly represented Türkiye at the 2021 European Youth Championships.

Greece and France further solidified their status as European powerhouses with their performances in Malta. Greece earned a total of six medals—three silver and three bronze—demonstrating its consistency meet after meet, especially considering most of the athletes on this junior team had just competed in Belgrade.

France also showcased its strength by capturing five medals, comprising two silver and three bronze. 18-year-old Oriane Jaillardon contributed to four of these medals, a very notable achievement as she only joined the squad a few weeks prior since she lives and trains in Paris year-round alongside the senior team.


A few more noteworthy performances came from a handful of athletes and nations on the rise, such as Switzerland, Georgia and Slovakia.

Always displaying engaging routines with high energy and artistry, this Switzerland junior team quickly positioned itself as the underdog with a high potential to upset in Malta.

In the end, the Swiss athletes finished fourth in technical duet, free duet, technical team and free team – landing only 1.5396 points away from the bronze medal in the latter. The Swiss particularly made waves in this event, after placing second in the preliminary round with their routine revolving the story of the female pirate Anne Bonny.

The duet of Melody Halbeisen, Aimée Michel and Anna-Sophia Aeschbacher nailed their two routines, swimming to “Tales from India” in the technical event and to “Valkyries” in free. Halbeisen and Michel had already put themselves on the map at the 2022 European Youth Championships thanks to their high-energy and presence in the water, and surely headline this whole group as one to watch in the future.

Over the last two years, Maria Alavidze of Georgia has risen to medal contention, but always seemingly landed outside of, yet so close, to the podium. In Belgrade three weeks ago, she placed fourth in technical solo and sixth in free solo. At last year’s European Junior Championships, she also finished fourth in both solo events.

In Malta, she showcased two compelling choreographies, including a brand-new technical routine, but again finished fourth in free solo and sixth in technical solo, 3.3632 points only separating her from the bronze in the latter.

In this technical event, Alavidze swam to “Canción Del Mariachi (Morena de Mi Corazón)” from the soundtrack of the film “Desperado”. The fast-paced and energetic routine was greatly engaging, and was also clearly appreciated by the judges as she received the second-best artistic impression score of the entire final. 

Slovakia has been on the rise over the last few years, and their performance in Malta continues this upward trajectory. 17-year-old Lea Anna Krajcovicova particularly stood out with three strong and basemark-less routines, finishing sixth in free solo, eighth in technical solo, and fifth in technical duet with Zofia Strapekova. Krajcovicova had also won bronze in that event at the Beijing World Cup earlier in the year. Strapekova and Michaela Bernathova also placed in eight in free duet. These achievements keep Slovakia’s momentum going as they head into the World Junior Championships.

Maltese soloist Zea Montfort‘s progress was also evident in this competition. Montfort, who has been training and competing abroad with the Catalan club CN Kallipolis this year, finished ninth in the technical solo event. Her artistry and the way she moved through the water clearly exuded that distinct Spanish style, as she performed to the song “Falling Apart” by Michael Schulte.

It was overall exciting to see a wide array of European nations represented in these championships, such as Denmark in solo, Portugal in mixed duet, and the return of Luxembourg to the international stage for the first time in over 25 years.

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.


All photos: European Aquatics

If you’ve enjoyed our coverage, please consider donating to Inside Synchro! Any amount helps us run the site and travel costs to cover meets during the season. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *