Russian duo wins tech routine, China repeats silver success

Shanghai 2011 - Synchronised Swimming

altIn the Duet competition today, first-time partners Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina captured a third consecutive World Duet technical gold (and seventh overall) at Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre Indoor Stadium. The duel for silver played out between Spain’s Andrea Fuentes/Ona Carbonell and local hopes Xuechen Huang/Ou Liu, both presenting their first duo together. After a hard-fought final, the Chinese ended up on the second march of the podium and the Spanish took third.                             

Solo standout performer Ishchenko competes for the first time in the Duet technical with Svetlana Romashina, who already formed a winning combination with Anastasia Davydova two years ago in Duet free and tech. Appearing entirely focused and confident, the new duet partners performed a complex routine of rare precision and power. Their excellent performance earned them a total 98.200 points. With this result, Russia remains unbeaten in Duet for the fifth consecutive edition of the FINA World Championships.

Speaking after the event, Ishchenko said: “Every medal for us is very significant and in our heart we all have an ideal image and we always strive to get better results, trying to get as close as possible to this ideal.”

Xuechen Huang (first-ever Chinese silver-medallist in the Solo tech on Sunday) combined with Ou Liu, showing talent for instance with an original connected leg action (one of the required elements in the Duet technical routine). In the end, China stood out in the tussle outscoring Spain by just 1.1 point for an impressive 96.500 total. This finish ahead of the Spanish is another milestone in China’s progress in the sport.  

In this regard, the Chinese duet pays tribute to their Japanese coach, Masayo Imura: “I got a lot of help from my coach, especially regarding my skills. In the beginning, I was not so strong; however, after this long-time training with her, I could feel the improvement,” Liu said.

Double World silver medallist, Huang added: “She has very high and strict requirements for us, she wants absolute perfection in all the movements and we need to follow the rhythm very clearly.”

Xuechen Huang and Ou Liu (CHN) - Credit: Giorgio Scala

Tonight was another disappointing night for the Iberians, who are despite the result, very happy with their performance: “As compared to yesterday's prelims, we have already made obvious improvement and we hope that in our future competitions, we can have even better performances day by day,” said Andrea Fuentes, looking ahead to next year’s Olympics.

Fuentes won the Olympic silver in Beijing with former duet partner Gemma Mengual, repeating their feat in Rome in both events. Together with Ona Carbonell in Shanghai, the Spanish duo devised a sophisticated routine to challenge Russia’s dominance, which combined good technique, lightness and elegance. Their total score of 95.400 earned them a third podium finish.

The fourth best were Canadians Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon and Elise Marcotte with a score of 94.100. The North Americans nicely incorporated a handful of innovative ideas in their routine and much legwork, improving from their sixth-place finish in Rome.

In fifth came the two most experienced swimmers of Japan’s current national team, Yukiko Inui and Chisa Kobayashi. The duo finished third at last year’s FINA Synchronised Swimming World Cup in Changshu (CHN) and fourth at the Foro Italico but still struggle to recover their place among the world's best.

Rising synchro stars and Europe's number-3 Daria Iushko and Kseniya Sydorenko from Ukraine finished sixth while the Italian pair Giulia Lapi/Mariangela Perrupato took seventh, dropping two spots from their duet classification at home in 2009.

Another notable match was that of France's Sarah Labrousse and Chloe Willhelm, who bested both USA and Great Britain, keeping the same spot occupied by their teammates in Rome. The French duet showed talent in Shanghai and with a regular presence on the international synchro stage for many years, the country continues its consistent progress.  

USA's Mary Killman and Lyssa Wallace improved their 12th ranking from Rome with a finish in ninth place, a nice improvement for the former powerhouse synchro nation. Hopes rest within new head coach Mayuko Fujiki from Japan to revive USA synchronised swimming. The top-level coach notably collaborated with Spanish head coach Anna Tarres for the last eight years.

For the British duo Olivia Allison/Jenna Randall, who placed tenth, the Shanghai Worlds is the last major rendezvous to test their Olympic ambition for next year's home Games. Hence the added incentive to leave a strong impression.  

Greece and Brazil closed the Duet tech rankings.

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