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Introduction

The Spanish Oscar Cervantes and the Italian Tiziana Martinelli win respectively the 33° Men and 2° Women CMAS Euro-African Spearfishing Championship. Spain wins the Teams’ title in the men’s standings and Italy in the women’s. The Italian and World Champion Giacomo De Mola is second and the extraordinary Tunisian Ahmed Ben Salah third with a fantastic podium at home.

Teams and athletes

13 nations have participated to the 33° Men and 2° Women CMAS Euro-African Spearfishing Championship in Tunisia, Bizerte. Algeria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey have been the national teams present. Among these well done to Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Spain, involving also the women teams. We hope also the other nations will work hard to be present with the women team at the CMAS World Speaerfishing Championship taking place in Spain next year. A total of 37 men and 9 women were the official athletes going in the water, but many more champions were involved as support to the teams. A great success of participants underlining the extraordinary and always growing passion for this sport!

Conditions and preparation

Extremely hot conditions during the preparation period. The water was at 27°C at the surface with a strongly variable thermocline moving from a few meters down to 18 meters. The water going down to around 18°C under the cold cut. The fish was moving a lot, as most athletes have commented, like Valerio Losito and Nikos Kambanis, Captain of Greece. The variable though that has changed in the last couple of days has been key. The current, almost absent during many days before the competition, in the two last days of preparation has become extremely strong!!! These conditions have been constant also during the two days of competition. Diving deep, even beyond 40 meters, to find small rock den for a grouper has been extremely challenging.

Day 1

A big delay at the start from the harbour and at sea to register all the boats, has made the day much longer than it should have been. The delay has partially been justified by unpredictable issues with three boats. Still, the absence of a megaphone to regroup all the participants in the middle of the sea before the start, and unclear specifications of the procedure, have made things even more complicated.

The competition field chosen for day 1 has been the closer one from the harbor, diversely from standard procedure. In fact, normally the field of the first day is chosen further away, as day two is more full of events, such as the prize giving, and so the competition needs to end earlier. The choice of the Tunisian Federation has been made predicting more fish in the closest competition field, and so more time for the weighing. This has been a correct decision, also considering the tuning of the organization and the delays of day 1.

Hot warm day with a little wind and waves, the competition with the boat off to their spots finally starts just before 11.30. Far too late!

The grouper is the fish to catch. The Dusky must be caught in maximum two specimens and 7 Kgs minimum weight. All the other groupers, the Blacktip, the Goldblotch, the Long-Tooth, the Motled and the White grouper can be caught in maximum 5 specimen and minimum weight is 2 Kgs.

Along the day De Mola immediately catches two big dusky groupers of 14 and 9 KGs and motled grouper of 5 Kgs. Then is is Xavi Blanco to be seen directly by us from the press boat with two dusky groupers around 10 Kgs and a motled aorund 5 Kgs. Then finally news arrive from the “monster”, Oscar Cervantes, having caught 2 dusky groupers and 5 other groupers, plus various fish more. But the fish delivery at the harbor is still all to be seen.

The excitement at the harbor for the fish delivery is amazing and the catches are fantastic, with great dusky groupers as protagonists.

At the end of the day is was the always extraordinary Oscar Cervantes (Omer) to obtain an amazing result with 13 valid fish and 4 different species. Some questioning with the organization during the weighing, as in Tunisia apparently the 5 groupers are considered the same species, so the points for the species where not initially accepted. Finally, with the intervention of the CMAS Technical Delegate, Sergio Perez Hernandez, the points were approved as the groupers are indeed scientifically and with no doubt different species. Perez has been, during all the competition, key in solving a big number of issues.

Behind Cervates who could it be if not the World Champion Giacomo De Mola (Pathos)? The Italian Champion catches some huge fish and 5 species, but “only” 8 catches (77.89%), not enough to beat the Spanish. Third is another Spanish, the excellent David Fernandez (Cressi), a little bit far though from the first two (56.27%), with 7 valid fish and 4 species. Fourth is the Italian Luigi Puretti (Seawolf Seagang.it) with 5 valid fish and 4 species (51.13%), fifth the home athlete, the Tunisian Ahmed Ben Salah (C4 Carbon), with 3 valid fish and 2 species (46.04%) and sixth is the Spanish Xavi Blanco (Mares), reaching 45.94% with 3 valid fish and 2 species.

With such result all the Spanish team the first day ends in the first 6 positions, putting one hand on the final victory in the teams standings. Seventh is the Turkish Turan Melih Aydiner (Imrozsub – 36.50%), with 4 fish and 4 species. Eighth is the Algerian Abdennour Cherdoud (XT Diving Pro – 35.85%), who catches 5 valid fish of 4 different species. The first Greek is the strong and expert Gerasimos Kavvadias (XT Diving ProFuruno – 33.08%), not at his normal level due to many problems, with 4 fish and 3 species (ninth – 33.08%), and who will absolutely astonish in day 2. To close the first ten classified is another Turkish athlete, Huseyin Tasbidi (2 fish and 2 species – 27.54%).

The fish caught are mainly, as predicted, groupers, with amazingly big dusky ones, the biggest of which of more than 15 kg. Also motled and golden groupers are well present in the catches of the day. Brown meagres and seabreams will also be part of the catches. Some grey triggerfish will also make the day of some athletes. One of them is the only athlete from great Britain, George Hoolhouse, 23th in day 1, thanks in fact to 3 triggerfish.

Some difficulties for Valerio Losito, finally 11th, “penalized” by the first grouper shot in the day at around 40 meters and stuck in the rocks. The Italian athlete will try multiple times to take the fish out, with finally no luck, and only losing time and energies. The current will make his job extremely tough, with dives that have to be made almost 100 meters up-current from the position of the grouper. The same difficulties have anyway hit almost all divers, as deep dives with strong current become really difficult to perform correctly. The two young Greek divers, Apostolos Tzoumakas and Stelios Christakis, have also suffered a lot this conditions. According to their Captain, the strong and expert athlete Nikolaus Kambanis, they where really well trained for the conditions without current, but have not managed to adapt to the tougher situation…a matter of experience.

Due to not good health conditions at the end of day 1, the Tunisian athlete Samir Yahiaoui will be substituted in day 2 by Sami Belhaj Saad (Deep Water wetsuits).

Among the teams Spain is first with 202.21%, Italy second with 156.03%, Turkey third with 79.06% and Tunisia fourth with 68.17%.

Among the women a tough competition takes place due to the absence of fish. The Spanish Magdalena Sart (Spetton), the individual and teams World Champion is very net already before the start of the competition. “The organizer must consider the needs also of women. We spearfish around 15 – 20 meters, maybe Tiziana Martinelli can go deeper. In this period, September, with the water at the surface of 27°C there is no fish at our bathymetrics. If there is fish, it is extremely nervous and almost impossible to catch. We could have competed in October and the situation would have been much better!”

At the end of day 1 Tiziana Martinelli (Sigalsub) has an additional comment. “It is ok to compete in these conditions from my point of view, even though not easy, but we cannot be together with men. I have gone down to – 28 meters where I could have caught a nice grouper, but with me there was an Algerian athlete and he has evidently been faster to reach the spot. I had to spearfish all day with Algerians, Turkish and Tunisian athletes with me and it was so tough. In the end, I still caught two nice fish the first day, apparently both valid. Unfortunately, they lost weight with the heat and finally they were both just under the minimum weight. In this sense, also the 500 grams minimum weight for group 1 fish is definitely quite high and could be reduced for us.”

So a lot of work to be done still by organizers and CMAS to give the women the correct chances of expressing themselves. Finally, at the end of day 1 first is the Italian Alessandra Totaro with one valid fish, a mullet of 735 grams. Behind her, her teammate, Alice Ferrari, with a white sea-bream of 564 grams (90.14%). All the other women competing simply did not manage to catch valid fish. This underlines the difficulties of the competition field for the women and the inopportunity of having them to challenge men in the same spots. Thanks to the two Italian women to score points, Italy is sharply first after day 1. No points for the other teams.

Day 2

Day 2 starts better with the organization machine working well after the running-in of day 1. At the dock all seems to be ready quite soon.

Another day with sun, but more wind and waves, and the further away competition field that made our trip with our tiny press boat of day 2 a little bit of an adventure. Still, with a new more helpful boatman we managed to live shoot some good catches.

A great current also in day 2, maybe even stronger than day 1, as confirmed by Oliver Siefert of the Danish team. Oliver had conquered an excellent 12th position on the first day (3 fish, 2 valid catches – 23.87%), considering the huge difference of sea conditions he is used to.

Nothing can really stop the “monster” Oscar Cervantes though, who continues to catch one fish after the other also in day 2. We meet him at sea and he catches a nice motled grouper live in front of us.

A huge catch we had the luck to see while at sea was done by Valerio Losito, with a fantastic meagre of almost 30 Kgs!

The fish delivery at the harbour is full of suspence with the dusky groupers caught that will be even bigger than in day 1. But when all the fish is shown, it is almost clear who will be the 2022 Euro-African Champion among men. Another tough day for the women, where one right fish will make the difference!

But it is the Greek Gerasimos Kavvadias to be the real conquerer of day 2, with an extraordinary amount of preys caught, 10 fish and 6 different species. He will be first of the second day of competition.

Second in day 2 is another great champion, Ahmed Ben Salah, confirming and improving his great performance in the first day (4 fish, 3 species and 87.14%). The Tunisian athlete in particular will bring home two enormous dusky groupers. Third is Giacomo De Mola, with 7 fish and 6 species (77.89%), and fourth Oscar Cervantes (75.74%), also with 7 fish but only 4 species. Xavier Blanco has also a great day with 9 fish and 4 species, and he is fifth (73.99%).

Behind him is the fantastic Algerian Omar Ben Bouaziz (Sigalsub), with 6 valid fish and 3 species (67.11%). Finally Croatia climbs a little up the rankings, with Antonio Buratovic (Dive In) seventh (4 fish, 3 species and 58.60%). 8th is the other Tunisian, Sami Belahj Saad, with 2 fish and one species (52.27%). Behind him the Algerian Abdennour Cherdous, catches 3 fish of 3 different species (49.81), while Stjepko Kesic (Cressi) is tenth, with 3 fish and 2 species (44.78%). The Croatian athlete unfortunately below his standards in this competition.

Among the women it is another difficult day, with once more only two athletes catching valid fish. The World Champion, the Spanish Magdalena Sart, catches a valid brown wrasse of 563 grams. But the winner of the day is Tiziana Martinelli, with a Grey Trigger fish of 1391 grams, with which she also wins the Title!

The biggest catch by Valerio Losito

An extraordinary catch, the biggest of the competition, is made by Valerio Losito (Omer), with and amazing meagre, also called jewfish or corvina. Valerio manages to bring to the weighing an almost 30 kg fish…wonderful! “Nico (Strambelli) saw during preparation this small area of sand and he spotted the meagres of 10-15 Kgs and also a grouper. There were some rocks and a small spot of sand of around 4 or 5 squared meters. We then saw them again another time during preparation, and I saw a really big one. So I decided to go there in the competition. We were in the same spot with Kavvadias, but he did not see the meagre, only the grouper. I managed to make the first dive and caught this amazing fish!”

Final results

Finally, with a first and a fifth place, Oscar Cervantes, the amazing Spanish athlete, second in the 2021 CMAS World Spearfishing Championship in Italy, just behind De Mola, wins the Euro-African title. And the Euro-African sees the positions inverted, with Giacomo De Mola second behind the Spanish. Third is an extraordinary Ahmed Ben Salah, the Tunisian Champion with a fifth and second position is extremely effective in both days.

Behind the podium are other great champions, like Gerasimos Kavvadias, unbeatable in day 2. Xavier Blanco, the 2014 World Champion in Peru, is fifth, with a fantastic result which will help Spain to finally conquer the Nations title. Sixth is an excellent Luigi Puretti, who would have though wanted to achieve more, as some problems have hit him especially in day 1. He can though be proud of his performance.

Seventh is the first of the Algerian, an extraordinary Abdennour Cherdoud, who with a constantly good performance, 8th and 9th in the 2 days, is the 7th strongest athlete in Europe and Africa today! Eighth is David Fernandez, the third of the Spanish, all in the top ten, and evidently deserving absolutely the final Title! 9th is Valerio Losito, the athlete catching the biggest fish of the entire competition, a stratospheric almost 30 Kgs meagre. A catch he and all the spectators will not forget. Closes the list of the 10 strongest Euro-African spearfishermen the Turk Turan Melih Aydiner, anyway less than 3% points from Losito.

Interviews

Oscar Cervantes

“I am really happy. Sincerely, I do not know what made me beat my eternal opponent and friend Giacomo. During the last two days of preparation we found an amazing spot for the first day Then I understood I could really win. This finally turned into a great result.

Next year we have the World Championship in Spain, but I am not at all worried or under pressure. I am always relaxed and want to enjoy this sports every time!”

Giacomo De Mola

“The truth is that lately I always want to win. This time I have not succeeded, but at the same time I am happy for Oscar and if someone else has to win I prefer it to be him! I believe that with this true and sporting rivalry we have awakened the interest of many for our sport. Somehow it is as in the golden days of Mazzarri, Amengual and Salvatori or of Bellani, Carbonell and March.

As for my competition, I lost the championship on the first day. After a start of fire, in 2 dives I already had 2 dusky groupers then 2 motled groupers. Then in the good point I tore a big golden one. Then other athletes came to fish above me. It seems that by now if they don’t prepare well they will only follow me….

This certainly penalized me a bit. I had to change places and a bit nervous I stuck a motled grouper at 46 meters with strong current. So I lost a lot of precious time to be able to make more catches. Finally, at the last dive I went down with a short speargun on a golden grouper. I was expecting it in the den but was outside. The shaft did not pass the fish and it slipped off, and I couldn’t make another dive. So I made mistakes that have costed me the championship.

The second day I didn’t make a mistake and in fact I was ahead of Oscar, albeit just a little. Kavvadias’ catch in day 2 was grandiose and Ahmed’s remarkable. Speaking with Oscar I think he made a difference in the preparation. So I also see my mistake there. I was looking for big fish in deep places believing to find the joker. I also wasted a lot of time on the wrecks. I found fish, but the places were dispersive and the fish difficult to catch, (I’m talking about the motled groupers).
So each of my dives was between 43 and 47 meters, with ambush dives chasing the motled groupers with very long apneas that brought me to the limit and therefore also to error.

Diversely, Oscar has believed in the 28/35 meters zone. Probably also another type of rocks, where the fish could be caught more easily and only some zones over 40. So he was much more operational and faster than me at those depths. I think this set of things was crucial. Honor to him who made the right choices!”

Ahmed Ben Salah

“It was an honor for me to stand on the third place of the podium. Being alongside the legends of spearfishing Oscar Cervantes Riera and Giacomo De Mola was amazing. I am a big fan of those guys. I follow them on social media, and I was dreaming to meet them one day. And here I am, my dream come true and better than I wish. Of course without forgetting all of the other legends of spearfishing. Xavier Blanco, David Fernandez and Gerasimos Kavvadias, all of them giving me a reason to move on pushing myself to be better.

It was my first experience in an International Competition and it is a good start for my career. I see myself already new in all of this, as I started spearfishing only 5 years ago. So, it is amazing for me.

I feel motivated now because I learned a lot this time. Now I know how an international competition looks like. I want to be the world champion one day, but I have still got a lot of things to learn.

Two catches have been special to me. The first and the best is the Dentex Gibbosus. It is my favorite fish because it was so deep for me and so challenging. The second one is my last 15 kg dusky grouper. I shot this fish and it was blocked inside a rock and I had only still got 30 minutes to the end of the Competition. It was really hard and stressful for me, but finally I got it .

This result means a lot to my Country. We are more confident now. We feel motivated and we believe that we can be protagonists in this sport one day. I do not want to forget all the people who believe on me. Among these, Hamza Khadraoui and Hatem Abdallah, of the great Tunisian National team, my friend Ahmed Maneni and my partner in the boat Ala Mechergui. All of them sacrificed their time and their energy to achieve this result!”

Tiziana Martinelli

“Once upon a time there was a girl with a head full of all the wonders of the world. With this mood my journey to Bizerte has began. At the end of the Italian Championship, after the summons were made, I said to the girls “let’s go to Tunisia and break everything. We have to do first, second and third place!”. So it has finally gone! It is a personal victory, but above all a team victory. Each one of us gave our all. Union, sharing and mutual support were our strengths.
The preparation was meticulous and studied. The race was held in difficult conditions, due also to the strong current, especially on the second day. For such reason I had to implement the “plan B”, to spearfish in shallower water, around 10-15 meters. I spearfished moving with the current using aspetto and ambush.
Competing with men and women together is certainly not easy. This, especially if you start the race on the same spot as it happened to me and the Algerian athlete Medjadji Mohamed Aniss. We did the dive simultaneously on a beautiful brown grouper at a depth of 27 meters. But he was better and faster to get to the bottom and he caught it right under my nose. Not for that I lost heart, on the contrary, on the second move I caught a motled grouper at 28 meters.
Conquering the first position at the 2022 Euro-African Championship in Bizerte, in Tunisia, was difficult. Quoting the thought of our TD Marco Bardi, I believe it contains the essence of competitions. “When you have the strength to overcome every obstacle, when you have the right will to achieve a result, when you have the ability to leave the problems out and focus on the goal, it is time to become a champion”.
Being part of the Italian National Team is a privilege as well as being a source of pride, because we are a group of valid, prepared athletes. But above all we are true, sincere friends, who make themselves available for the good of all. We fight unreservedly to achieve the common goal which is to raise our flag. Thanks to our DT Marco Bardi, because he was able to select and put together the right people. Thanks to the Head of Delegation Sandro Congedo, who with simplicity and humility made himself available to each of us; thanks to our FIPSAS Federation that never leaves us alone.
A huge thanks to Diego Mazzocchi, my assistant / boatman and companion in adventures and misadventures, to my sponsor Sigal Sub, my company Spearfishing Team of Santa Marinella and of course to my family, my children Giulia and Dante, my husband Jacopo Giandominici, without whom none of this would have been possible.”

Alessandra Totaro

Before the start I would have signed up for this result. I can’t though help but deal with my mistakes. The human value of the Italian national team, I must underline, is what motivates me most to give my best. This especially in the competition. I am one of those people who under pressure give their best. Sometimes even if I don’t even believe in it. Unfortunately, I made technical mistakes, I was superficial in preparing the equipment and I served this on the second day of competition, when, breaking an elastic band, I was left without the 60 cm, the speargun of choice for me during the competitions.
I liked everything about Tunisia. For me it was all fantastic, obviously considering also the difficulties that are experienced in such areas. But something could be improved, time management and then they could have put some more fish in the sea (laughs). I don’t usually flatter myself for the results, I always look for a way to give and do more. It is enough for me to know that I obtained, on day 1, 100%, as the great Tiziana in day 2, for me, a great result. Then, the affection that binds me to my teammates overcomes every obstacle and sadness and this is gold!

Alice Ferrari

I feel really well after the competition, much better than after Arbatax, as I have arrived to Tunisia in perfect physical conditions. Regarding the competition, we knew it was a really tough competition area. On the first day I had the fish. Where I caught the white seabream it was a main den that I found on the first day of preparation. So we worked really well in the days before the competition. Then winds, sea conditions and current made it all more complicated. Still, this normally happens so… Anyway the fish I caught was found during preparation, in a complicated den. I in fact needed almost an hour to catch this fish.

So, finally, I must say, I am really happy, also because the other fish were a mullet and a grey triggerfish, not caught in the den. I almost caught a second white seabream, but the den was very difficult and with a deep shape. The second day the competition field was tougher. I tried in any way to catch some more fish, fishing in deeper and in shallower water. Sincerely 500 grams for the catch was a little too much. I saw some mullets, but they were all maximum 400 grams, so no luck. Still, I am really happy with my performance. Also, it is really positive all the Italian Team contributed to the final results with some points. So it does not really matter to me about the final position on the podium, but the result of the team and how I competed. I am really happy, just as if I won two gold medals!”

Gerasimos Kavvadias

In day one, unfortunately, everything went wrong from the start! I arrived second at a spot with many brown meagres and tried to shoot one or two. The first one I shot went away and scared the others. After leaving the spot I had caught a blacktip grouper and only one brown meagre. Then I moved to another spot for a brown meagre, which I caught, but as I was retrieving the fish from the bottom the buoy floating with the ballast near us suddenly disappeared. The strong current moved it to a shallower spot and the ballast worked as an anchor.

I lost 15-20 minutes trying to find the buoy before asking a boat of the organization if I could continue with another buoy. My mind was lost at this point. The disaster completed to the next spot where I shot my big grouper. Trying to pull the big fish out of its den in 43 meters a line twisted around my wrist and delayed my surfacing. At this point my day 1 was finished. I was scared, annoyed and full of doubt about what I was doing there! Those thoughts should never exist in an athletes mind during a competition day. I did 4 more dives to take the fish out of the den and continued with no appetite of competing at all. I just wanted the day 1 nightmare to end.

After the weighing I had a deep conversation with myself and decided to delete day 1 from my mind and move on to day 2. A ”never surrender” feeling had grown strong inside me. Everything went according to the plan in day 2 and my strategy was completely fulfilled. Five groupers plus two dusky groupers and some smaller fish was the initial plan as to be first in this zone and so I did.

I want to remember one moment of day 2 that I think will be forever impressed in my mind. As I dived to my second spot Valerio Losito managed to dive first, with me following him with a delay of 10 seconds. I heard the hollow sound of the shot and a big white fish started to appear in the hazy water. My first thought was that he hit a big amberjack, but as I was getting closer something didn’t fit! I could’t believe what I was seeing! A giant meagre materialized in front of my amazed eyes.

As I surfaced Valerio celebrated his catch and I couldn’t do anything less than to be a small part of his celebration. I congratulated him and moved on without being fully able to realize the moment that we have shared with one of my dear “opponents”! It is one of the experiences that I will always remember from the competitions…”.

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