The FIFA World Cup isn’t the only elite sporting competition taking place this month. The XVIIIth Mediterranean Games run from Friday 22nd June to Sunday 1st July in the Spanish city of Tarragona
Athletes from 26 countries on three different continents (all of which have a coastline to the Mediterranean sea) will compete in 33 different sports over 10 days of competition. Here are just a few of the world-class performers to keep an eye on.
There are high hopes for Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte. The unlikely Olympic champion began swimming at the age of four following the recommendation of a doctor, who said swimming would help combat the negative affects of her scoliosis. Belmonte is also allergic to chlorine—but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the best in the world. Belmonte shot to fame by winning 200m butterfly in Rio, becoming the nation’s first female swimmer to claim Olympic gold. She swam six events at last year’s FINA World Championships and medalled in two. Not to mention she’s broken five world records and heaps of national ones.
In the men’s 1500m freestyle, the clear favourite is Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri. Paltrinieri owns the event—he’s won it in the continental championships, the Rio Olympics and twice at the World Championships. Although the swimmer has recently branched out, experimenting with shorter distance races and open water events, he’ll likely be untouchable during his signature event.
After she finished fourth at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing 2014, air pistol shooter Anna Korakaki was devastated. But that was not the end of her story. Two years later, Korakaki went to Rio and became the first Greek shooter to win Olympic gold in 120 years. She won her first two World Cup titles earlier this year; we’ll see if the streak continues in Tarragona.
— ISSF (@ISSF_Shooting) August 9, 2017
Italian trap shooter Jessica Rossi set Olympic and world records when she scored 99 in the London 2012 finals. She went on to win the world championships in Lima in 2013, but later hit a dry spell. Rossi only won one medal, a bronze, during the next four years of competition. The tide changed in Moscow during the 2017 World Championships, when she beat Rio Olympic champion Catherine Skinner to win her third World title. Rossi’s hoping to continue her comeback at these Mediterranean Games.
Paula Leitón may not have an Olympic medal, but she did break a record in Rio. The rising star of Spanish water polo was only 16 when her team placed fifth at the 2016 Games, making her the youngest female water polo player in Olympic history. Leitón won silver at the 2016 FINA Youth Water Polo Championships and at the World Championships in Budapest last year. This could be the year she and her team finally take the gold.
Eleven days into the Rio Games, Team Serbia was feeling dejected. Not a single athlete among them had medalled. Then Davor Štefanek stepped onto the mat. Štefanek´s gold medal performance revitalized his fellow athletes and the Serbians went on to win a total of eight Olympic medals — one more than they had during the previous two games combined. In addition to his Olympic title, Štefanek boasts two silver medals from the European championships. This could be his chance to medal for the first time this year.
When Štefanek isn’t busy training, he’s spending time with his son, whom he believes has what it takes to be a future wrestling champ.
Speaking of Serbia, long jumper Ivana Spanovic did the nation proud when she won her event in the 2018 World Indoor Championship, finally besting her American rival, seven-time world champ Brittney Reese. Spanovic has come a long way since she won bronze in Rio; she just set a new personal best last month.
With an Olympic title, three World Championship titles, and five European Championships, Marina Alabau shows no signs of slowing down. Once the leading European windsurfer, the 32-year-old hasn’t scored a medal since she got silver at the World Championships in 2014. Could this be the beginning of her journey back to the top?
And Don’t Forget
- Olympic bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini, who recently finished sixth overall in the 2018 Women’s tour will be part of Italy’s cycling team.
- Sofiana Oumiha, the lightweight boxing star and Rio silver medalist, who won all his bouts at the World Series in April. He’s spent the last couple weeks training in Cuba.
- Laura Quevedo, who won silver as part of the Spanish basketball team at the Rio Games, will be a member of Spain’s 3×3 team.
- Canoe sprinter Marcus Cooper Walz, the K2 champion from Rio. He’ll be participating in the K2 sprint with fellow Olympian Rodrigo Germade. The pair won gold in the event at the World Championships last year.
- Lydia Valentin—Spain’s first champion in Olympic weightlifting. The 2012 gold medallist, and three-time Olympic medal holder, four-time European champ, and defending World Champion will be bringing her A-game.