With a spectacular and crowd-engaging Gala event, the 17th edition of the FINA World Junior Artistic Swimming Championships came to a close in the beautifully historic Quebec City, Canada. After the twelve events were contested at the Desjardins Aquatic Centre on the campus of Universite Laval, Japan and Spain each won eleven medals.
With two exceptions, in the Solo Technical and the Highlight, where Italy claimed the silver medal, the first and second steps on each of the twelve podiums belonged to Japan and Spain. The athletes representing Japan competed in all but one event, the Mixed Highlight, in Quebec City. In eight of the eleven events, the Japanese were the best junior artistic Swimmers, while in the other three events, they were surpassed by Spain. Spain did compete in all twelve events that were contested; however, the Spaniards did not medal in the Solo Technical event.
With two silver and one bronze World Championship and three gold World Youth Championship medals in her collection, fourteen-year-old Japanese Moe Higa already has made a name for herself in the Artistic Swimming world. Higa is the first Artistic Swimming athlete to win medals at Youth, Junior and Senior World Championships, all in the same year. Even though, Higa competed for the first time in a Technical Solo event in Quebec, her routine themed “Suspense” on instrumental music composed by Yuriko Toda earned her 88.4438 points for the gold medal. Higa’s second gold medal at Junior World’s came in the Free Solo, when she swum to the song “Noragami” by Japanese composer Taku Iwasaki and received 89.7667 points.
“I want to get better, to improve, every time I swim. I am very happy; this is the highest score for me.”
Italy’s Susanna Pedotti claimed the silver medal with 85.2942 points for her choreography on the song “It’s a man’s man’s man’s World” by Seal in the Technical event, but Pedotti, looking and moving like an angel, had to settle for the bronze medal in the Free competition as her performance to the song “Caruso” by Lara Fabian earned her 86.8000 points.
“I was thinking a lot about what I wanted to do to equal the results from the Technical event, but I had a lot of fun, because it was my last solo routine this year.”
The Free routine event saw Spain’s Marina Garcia Polo reinvent herself after she finished a disappointing fourth in the Technical routine. With her “Spanish Dance” Garcia Polo wowed the judges to earn 87.6000 for the silver medal.
“In the Technical event, my scores for the last element were a little low and I missed the podium, so for the free routine, I gave it all to reach the principal objective to reach the podium at a World Championship. I am super happy.”
France’s Oriane Jaillardon earned France one of its two bronze medals in Quebec City by scoring 84.3904 points for the routine “Madness” swum to a collection of Middle Eastern style music.
Unlike the females, both the Male Solo events contested for the first time at the World Junior Championships resulted with identical podium finishes. The gold and historic titles as a first time Champion was earned by the Spaniard Dennis Gonzalez Boneu. Gonzalez Boneu’s technical routine “Spider” received 82.6639 points while his “Sexy” performance to the song “I feel like I’m drowning” by Two Feet earned 83.6000 points.
“I am super happy with how I swam. I was nervous because there were many more competitors in my event, but I did well and now I am the champion.”
Japan’s Yotaro Sato earlier this year won two silver World Championship medals in the Mixed Duet events in Budapest, in Quebec Sato showed his promise as a soloist. Sato added two silver medals to his collection when he scored 80.9088 points as a “Snake” in his technical performance and 83.3000 points as an “Alien” in his free routine.
“This was my best performance as a soloist. The successes I have as an athlete have made me famous in Japan, and I am motivated to continue training to bring more attention to the sport.”
Kazakhstan’s Eduard Kim showed the world the capabilities of the male athletes in Artistic Swimming. Kim, as a soloist and with his partner in the Mixed Duet event, won all three of the bronze medals that team Kazakhstan is taking home. Kim’s “a Story About Love” on Duncan Laurence’s “Arcade” received 79.2620 points, while his free choreography “Wizard” scored 79.6000 points.
The Technical and the Free duet events were both won by the Japanese duo Yukina Hotta and Moka Fujii. In the technical event, the Japanese outscored the rest of the field by almost 2 points with the 87.5591 points the duo received for “Voice”. However, their free choreography titled “White Tiger” performed to music from the soundtrack album “Exodus: Gods and Kings” by composer Alberto Iglesias received 88.7333 points, a mere 0.5 points more than silver medal winning duet from Spain Aitana Crespo and Mercedes Diaz Cervera, who received 88.2000 points for their “El Espanol” routine. The Spanish duo scored 85.6516 points to earn the silver in the technical event.
During the Technical routine competition the Italians Alessia Macchi and Susanna Pedotti were ranked in third until almost the very last of the competitors when the French duo, Romane Lunel and Oriane Jaillardon, showcased their routine and scored 84.6559 points to jump ahead and claim the bronze medal.
“We knew it was going to be difficult, but possible. Sometimes that even if you have a good swim, it is not going to work out. We gave it the best that we had, and it worked.”
In the Free routine “Cruella” Macchi and Pedotti stood their ground and scored 86.5667 points to claim the bronze.
MIXED DUET EVENTS
As was the pattern in the female Duets, the Japanese and the Spaniards finished first and second in the Mixed Duet events as well. Representing Japan together with Ayano Shimada instead of with his sister Tomoka Sato as was the case in Budapest, Yotaro Sato added two gold medals to his collection. Sato and Shimada’s technical routine, an interpretation of “Tarzan”, scored 84.0251 points, while their “Samurai” interpretation in the Free event scored 85.7000 points. Spain’s Solo World Junior Champion Dennis Gonzalez Boneu, partnered with Valeria Parra Telegina for 83.2318 points in the technical event and with Maria Bofill Strub for 84.6333 points in the free, to add two silver medals to Spain’s medal tally.
Another memorable moment in Quebec City occurred at the very end of the Technical event. Italy’s mixed pair Alessia Austranti and Filippo Pelati, up last of the ten participating pairs, electrified the crowd and was awarded 79.5817 points for their choreography to the electronic music remix by Robot Boys. The score edged out the mixed pair from Kazakhstan, Eduard Kim and Zhaklin Yakimova, and earned Italy the bronze medal.
“We are very emotional, very moved. There is a lot of work behind this duet. We are in love with this moment. We are honored to be here and to represent Italy.”
Kim and Yakimova redeemed themselves and performed their interpretation of Disney’s “Aladdin” in the free event for a score of 81.9667 points to grab their own bronze medal.
TEAM, MIXED COMBO & HIGHLIGHT EVENTS
The team events are the crowd pleasers because of the WOW factors involved in the choreographies. Filled with acrobatics, flips, throws, and lifts, the stories told by the participants are captivating and often breathtaking. Adding to the impressive levels of the athletes are the gorgeous and eye-catching suits that fit their themes so well. Honorable mention here goes to the suits that Team Greece donned during each of their routines and the very creative headpieces Team Italy wore during several of their routines.
Spain won two gold and two silver medals in the Team events. In a thriller that came down to the very last swim of the entire competition, Spain’s choreography themed “The Witches” received 89.3000 points and jumped ahead of Japan, who was awarded 89.2333 points for their routine “Angels and Demons”. In the Technical event the difference between the two teams was almost two points. In this case, Japan received 88.3786 points and the gold medal for “Vampire”, while Spain performed “Namaste” for 86.6667 points and the silver medal. In both events, Italy’s themes could be good reflections of their motivation and intent: “Heroes” and “Warriors”. The Italians were awarded 85.2905 points for their technical and 86.9333 for their free routine to close out the podium in both events.
Spain’s Coach Paula Klambur: “I am very happy, very proud of my athletes. We have done the work, a lot of work. And really, I loved seeing them swim with gusto, with the heart. That for me is the most important thing, that they are putting their hearts into the swim. I knew that this was a possibility, but I also realized that it could have easily gone the other way. We did not prepare with the medal as the objective, we prepared to be our best, we did the work and it showed today.”
It's clear that the sport of Artistic Swimming is undergoing major changes. The inclusion of the male athletes, the new scoring changes, and the program and entry rules for several events are all adding to making the sport better for the athletes. Such was the case for this World Junior Championships. The teams were allowed up to two male participants in the Team Combo and Team Highlight event. In both events the gold medalists included a male athlete in their lineup. With 89.1667 points, Japan’s “Haunted House” won the Mixed Combo event followed by Spain with 88.5000 points and Italy in third with 86.3667 points. The Mixed Team from Spain performed to the music “Fun Machines” by Salvador Niebla, while the all-female team from Italy told “The Love Story of Sultan Soliman”.
Spain won the gold medal in the Mixed Highlight event with a score of 87.5333 for their routine choreographed to a compilation of music by the legendary Rock band Queen. World Junior Champion Dennis Gonzalez Boneu: “It has been a dream to participate in a team with females and today it became a reality. It has been so special and exciting, a gold and a silver with my female teammates.”
Performing the choreography” Dragons” on Antongiulio Frulio’s “Flag of our Fathers” the Italian team scored 86.6000 points to earn themselves their second silver medal this week. Greece, after finishing 4th in the Mixed Combo, performed their “Unstoppable Spirit” to Thomas Bergersen’s “Two Steps from Hell” to receive 84.7333 points and the honor to step onto the podium to collect their bronze medal. Greece’s Elena Frangou: “We are happy to see a change in the sport, we hope that the change will make everything more fair and today we feel that the swim went very well. This is what we are fighting for every day, every day we work to get here. We really want to get to the podium at the World Championships.”