Basking in the limelight... Olivia Lewis was triumphant yesterday after having clinched the much coveted Malta Song for Europe Festival (Photo: Matthew Mirabelli)
Refusing to ever adopt a defeatist attitude, Olivia Lewis yesterday steamrolled over her competition and finally realised her dream to represent Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest - after no fewer than 11 attempts.
Her song Vertigo, composed by Philip Vella with lyrics by Gerard James Borg, garnered a whopping 30,977 points at the Go Mobile Song for Europe Festival, held at the Malta Fairs and Convention Centre, in Ta' Qali.
The audience started chanting "Olivia, Olivia" even before the result was announced, erupting into screams when the record number of votes was read out by compere Stephanie Spiteri in the presence of Maltasong chairman Robert Abela and Culture Minister Francis Zammit Dimech.
"I never expected so many votes. I definitely believe I have won with the best song, it's always been close to my heart and I feel confident I gave a good interpretation," she said in her initial comments to The Sunday Times.
Having placed second for three consecutive times, many felt this was her year and in an interview with Peppi Azzopardi earlier in the show, she insisted she would never give up in her goal to sing on the Eurovision stage. Her persistence has paid off.
However, Olivia, 28, now faces one last hurdle - that of taking Malta through the Eurovision's semi-finals in Helsinki, Finland, in May. She has to beat stiff competition from 27 other contestants to be among the 10 that make it to the final.
Yet in the meantime, she's basking in the limelight.
"I think the song touched people's hearts... I also feel the Internet was fast and effective in promoting the song," she said.
Asked at a press conference how much the song will be tweaked in the run-up to the Eurovision, Mr Abela said that the board will ensure that it will have the best production possible.
"I guarantee that this package will make everyone happy, especially Olivia," he said.
The audience was rapturous when Olivia came on stage accompanied by violinist Joseph Chetcuti, dancer Jes Sciberras and a gong to sing her song, which is a fusion of symphonic pop with an exotic touch.
By the interval it was clear who the three favourites were... the televoting merely confirmed the people's choice.
Trilogy, who wooed the crowd with their beautiful, operatic voices, placed second with 7,647 points for the song Starlight, composed by Paul Abela and written by Joe Julian Farrugia.
Newcomer Klinsmann Coleiro, the youngest singer of the night, was the surprise of this year's contest when he placed a close third with 7,550 points for the song She Gives Me Wings, composed by Mark Spiteri Lucas and penned by Rita Pace.
Accompanied on stage by two Gozitan musicians, Brian and Paul, Klinsmann gave an energetic performance that had people clapping when he kicked off his song on the harmonica.
Unlike previous years, this year's final saw just six contestants who had been short-listed from Thursday's semi-final, a move intended to narrow the public's choice and ensure that a good package won.