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The Artistic Swimming European Championships got underway today in Oświęcim at the III European Games with the Duet Free and Team Free Preliminary events.

In the morning, 18 pairs faced off in the hopes of finishing in the top 12 to qualify to the Duet Free Final on 24 June.

Anna-Maria and Eirini Marina Alexandri of Austria, silver medallists at the 2015 Baku European Games, topped the scoreboard with 265.1459. The triplet sisters unveiled their new “Condor” choreography and were awarded their full Degree of Difficulty (DD) of 40.40, the highest of the field.

“Obviously, when we’ve put together this new routine, we were very much aware of the new scoring system and calculated the highest possible DD during the planning phase as this gives you a big advantage,” Eirini Marina Alexandri said. “Of course, it’s also a risk, as a small mistake like an unfinished rotation can lead to a big deduction. So, we feel the pressure upon performing our routine as we know we could win big but lose big as well.”

Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva of Ukraine placed second with 234.0022, although counting one base mark. After competing in three World Aquatics World Cups this year, the twins were pleased to represent their country at these European Games.

“We are happy to be here and compete for the Olympic berth, this is our main target now,” Vladyslava Aleksiiva said. “Since September, we’ve been practicing in Kyiv because our hometown Kharkiv is close to the Russian border. It’s safer, though sometimes we cannot sleep because of the shelling. During the winter, we needed to train in wetsuits, the ones open water swimmers use, as the water was too cold. But we are here, we are ready, and we hope to achieve a good result.”

Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee of Israel finished third with a score of 217.3688. 

These three, along with Spain, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Liechtenstein, Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria have qualified to the Duet Free final. As part of the new artistic swimming rules, they can modify and increase their DD for the final.

In the afternoon, seven nations participated in the Team Free Preliminary. All will go on to the Team Free Final on 25 June.

Competing in this event for the first time this season, Spain finished at the top with a score of 303.2751. Italy settled for second with 275.4290 and Ukraine third with 254.6542. Both Italy and Ukraine received base marks and will aim for better performances in the final.

Giorgio Minisini of Italy, reigning World and European champion in the mixed duet, became the first man to swim in a team routine in a major international senior competition. 

“[For men to swim in teams] is a big milestone for our sport,” he said. “Many boys can start without having to put a limit on their ambitions. Now, they can dream about the Olympic Games, World and European Championships in all the events. The sport is becoming more inclusive, and everyone will gain something from that.”

Israel, Switzerland, Germany, and Great Britain complete the field for the final.

The competition continues tomorrow with the Mixed Duet Technical Final at 10:00 and the Duet Technical Final at 18:00.

By Christina Marmet / LEN