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Italy's Agiurgiuculese inspired by unexpected World medal

Publication date : 13/09/2018

Alexandra Agiurgiuculese is eager to prove that her bronze medal in the Ball final on Tuesday evening — Italy's first Individual medal at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in nearly three decades — is no fluke.

"I didn't celebrate too much because it's important to confirm that the bronze medal is not just a one-off," says the 17-year-old Agiurgiuculese, who returned from a knee injury that interrupted her training earlier this year.

Alexandra Agiurgiuculese performs her unique head walkover during her routine with the Ball on Tuesday at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Sofia.

The expectations for a medal were not high for Agiurgiuculese, who took to the floor as the final performer of the evening at the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Her teammate, and roommate in Sofia, Milena Baldassarri, was already in third place, guaranteeing a medal for Italy.

Nobody was more surprised than Agiurgiuculese herself by her medal-winning performance. As the final performer of the evening, she was hoping to improve her performance with the Ball from qualification, when she scored 19.300, and her seventh-place finish at last year's World Championships in Pesaro (ITA).

Most of all, she and her coach wanted to deliver a performance worthy of the final. The debutante of the Italian team in Pesaro, Agiurgiuculese qualified to three finals and won the Longines Prize for Elegance at her first World Championships. In Sofia, the stylish Agiurgiuculese was nearly flawless. She opened with a roll of the Ball around her head and an eye-catching headstand walkover and was at one with the Ball throughout her routine.

When her score flashed on the scoreboard showing her in third place, the emotional reaction of Agiurgiuculese and her coach, Špela Dragaš, was as priceless as the medal itself, as Agiurgiuculese burst into tears while Dragaš jumped up and down excitedly. The historic moment was not lost on them as the medal was the first for Italy since 1991, when Samantha Ferrari won a bronze medal with the Clubs at the World Championships in Athens.

Agiurgiuculese and her coach, Špela Dragaš, react to her bronze medal win the Ball in Sofia.

"I am so surprised," she says of her 19.800, a personal best. "I don't understand how I did it!"

It was a special moment for the Romanian-born Agiurgiuculese and her Slovenian coach to bring a medal back to their adopted homeland of Italy.

Agiurgiuculese, a native of Iași in northeastern Romania, took up the sport at age 6 at the advice of a doctor concerned about her spine. As a member of the Romanian team, she stayed with her grandparents after her parents and brother moved to Italy. Dragaš not only encouraged her to join the Italian team but helped her with the Italian language. Agiurgiuculese received Italian citizenship in 2015. She now lives and trains in Udine.

Agiurgiuculese was ranked second in the Ribbon event after Wednesday's competition and will compete with the Clubs on Thursday. She is aiming to qualify for the All-around and improve upon her eighth place from Pesaro, but most of all she wants to help Italy — currently fourth in the standings — in the team event.

"I am so happy about this medal, but now it's important to focus on the team competition," she says.