Indianapolis 2010, day 4: Russia captures gold medals in Duet and Team

Russia collected two gold medals in the finals of the Duet Free and the Team Free Routine competitions at the 12th FINA/eSynchro World Junior Synchronised Swimming Championships held at “The Nat” on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis (USA). The Russian duet and their eight person team repeated as gold medal winners in these events. The team from Russia has won the Team Free Routine in every edition of the FINA Junior Championships since 1998. The Russian juniors have also won 24 European Junior titles.

Two athletes from Ukraine swam well enough in today’s Duet Free event to earn silver medals while the eight athletes representing China earned the silver medal in the Team Free Routine event. The duet and teams from Canada welcomed the bronze medal in each event. It was their nation's best performance since the 2002 junior edition held in the Olympic swimming pool in Montreal, Canada.

Today’s Duet Free Routine was an exemplary display by the top 12 junior teams in the world. The height, execution and the extension of the top three teams clearly set them apart from the others. The three medal winning duets swam “bigger in the water” and included near flawless “pair actions” that gave their presentation a unique signature. They earn high marks by the judges and drew the applause of competitors and spectators watching.

Milena Miteva (RUS) and Elena Prokofeva (RUS) scored 171.297 points, the only team to exceed 170 points in the Duet Final. The Russian Duet collected the highest marks in Technical Merit and Artistic Impression during today’s competition. All teams carried the scores from Friday’s Figures Preliminaries into today’s competition. Scores from the Preliminary competition were used only in the selection of the top 12 duet teams and are not carried forward in today and Sunday's finals.

Milena Miteva and Elena Prokofeva from Russia - credit: Peter H. Bick

In the Figures preliminaries, Prokofeva was ranked second and Miteva third, behind their soloist Vlada Chigireva (RUS). Chigireva is top ranked going into Sunday’s final in this event. Russian athletes took the first 11 places in the Figures Preliminaries, the compulsory event in which 178 junior athletes competed on Friday. In fact every member of the Russian team placed ahead of any athlete from a different nation.

The two Russian athletes were also the European Junior champions and have trained together only since March. They have been enrolled in a school for synchronised swimmers for the past eight years and have competed against each other. The routine they swam today was a tribute to the Indians, the Native Americans who were the first settlers of America and Canada. This was the same routine that earned the Russian Senior National team a gold medal in the FINA Synchronised Swimming World Trophy held last November in Montreal (CAN).

Russian duet coach Valentina Teplyakova, the coach of the gold medal performance in Montreal, has coached five gold medal performances in FINA Junior World Championships. "The duet was nearly technically perfect although I as their coach saw just a few little mistakes. This is the last time that this routine will be performed. After a three-week rest we will be together again working on on a new programme for the juniors."

The second place duet of Lolita Ananasova (UKR) and Kateryna Sadurska (UKR) scored 166.472 points.

Meng Chen, the coach of the Canadian duet Rachel Frechette (CAN) and Emilia Kopcik (CAN) offered these comments about her athlete’s bronze medal performance. “Our performance was really good. It was an amazing swim and I am really happy for the girls. All of the elements that we have been working on were exceptionally well executed. They obviously enjoyed creating “the dragon” and this showed in their routine. I saw their strong connection to the music and to each other. They are the new generation of Canadian athletes and I see a great future for each of them and for Canadian juniors. This was their best swim.” Canadian Kopcik placed 13th in the Figures Preliminary. Only Francesca Deidda of Italy and every member of the Russan team placed ahead of her.

In an interesting footnote, the duet of Eszter Czekus and Szofi Kiss of Hungary were the 6th ranked duet in the figures competition. Since the results of the Figures preliminaries compose 50 percent of the score in the finals, the Hungarians gave themselves a definite advantage going into the finals. Unfortunately their duet earned the lowest ranking in the final routine and they left the water in 11th place.

In the Team Free Routine the Russians exemplified their technical superiority, something that has consistently been on display throughout this competition. Their final total of 170.486 points was a clean sweep reflecting the highest scores in the preliminaries, the Figures and the artistic and technical scores in today's event. Russian coach Irina Litivonish is coaching at her first Junior Championships and was assisted by choreographer Olga Smirnova in training this junior team.

The Chinese tied the Canadian team in this afternoon's scores for technical merit and enjoyed a margin of just 11 hundredths advantage in the artistic impression. The team from China was rewarded with the silver medal placement on the medals podium thanks to excellent performances in the Figures competition. The strength of the Canadians in the Figures competition allowed the team to swim past the Ukrainian squad. The squad from Ukraine executed a fan friendly performance that was marred by two unsuccessful lifts and resulted in their teams 4th place finish. A side note is the impressive scores of the team from Japan in the figures competition. The Japanese placed second only to Russia, but were lacking in their performance in the final routine scoring and finished in 5th place.

The Russian team in action - credit: Peter H. Bick

The Russian squad was composed of the following athletes who competed today: Vlada CHIGIREVA; Anna ERAVKINA; Anna KUTEYNIKOVA; Vasillisa MIRONOVA; Milena MITEVA; Elena PROKOFEVA; Maria SHUROUCHKIA; Ksenia VOYNOVA.

Two finals remain to be contested on Sunday in the final day of the 12th FINA/eSYNCHRO Junior World Synchronised Swimming Championships. At 13:30 pm the finals of the Solo Free Routine will be contested. The finals of the Combination will begin at 16:00 followed by the awards ceremony for the two finals held on Sunday.

Twenty nine nations are slated to compete in the FINA Synchronised Swimming World Cup to be held from September 16th to 19th in Hangshu, China.