A Champion, a Heroine: Malta’s Gaia Cauchi
Well, it was a hard-fought Junior Eurovision this year, with a dozen entries battling it out for the top spot in one of the world’s most prestigious youth song festivals, but only one pint-sized powerhouse could nab the victory. After a nailbiter of a vote, it was Malta’s Gaia Cauchi who took the win with her power-ballad “The Start”. Ukrainian Sofia Tarasova came in second place on her home soil, with Belarus’s Ilya Volkov taking the bronze, but the night truly belonged to Gaia, who had just turned eleven.
With a population of about 450,000 inhabitants (more or less the size of Cardiff), this Eurovision-mad island has a new heroine to rally behind. When she returned home from Kiev, not only were massive crowds waiting to meet her at Arrivals, but some incredible news, as well. The Maltese government has decided to nominate Gaia to the “Ġieħ ir-Repubblika”, the nation’s highest civil award.
A win is a wonderful thing for any nation to claim, but let’s put this in a bit of local context, shall we? For Malta, no JESC entry had ever scored higher than 4th, when Daniel Testa sang “Junior Swing” back in 2008. Since their debut at Adult Eurovision in 1971, they have yet to claim a victory (although a pair of silvers does ease the sting). The island has never won an Olympic medal of any color, and has never qualified for a World Cup or European Football Championship. This isn’t just a win for a young singer; it’s an honor for the island as a whole. And now that JESC officially offers the winning nation the first option of hosting the next year’s competition (as opposed to the bidding process used in past years), Malta is likely to roll out the red carpet in 2014 to a new batch of singers.
But, until then, let the champagne pop (or, for the little ones, some sparkling cider), let the celebrations continue, and (most importantly) let the music play.