World’s synchro trio strengthens overall lead

Shanghai 2011 - Synchronised Swimming

credit: Giorgio ScalaThe tone is set. One year ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games, the world’s best synchronised swimming teams leave Shanghai with new targets to fine-tune their preparation for the big meet. Russia concluded the week with a complete sweep in all seven events, a first since the split between technical and free routines in 2007. China established a success without precedent, bagging six silvers and a bronze while former world number-2 Spain brings home one silver and five bronze. Only one medal, the bronze in Free Combination, was out of the Spanish grasp and ended up in Canada’s pocket. This is the only event where the Russia-China-Spain triumvirate did not prevail.  

In the Team free event, the Russians scissor-kicked their way through a magnificent and intricate routine to “Forward to Wind”, thrilling the audience and judges with breathtaking throws and sky-high lifts. Their ability to maintain a tremendous balance in all those acrobatic moves and change so quick into the next sequence is disconcerting. With a total score of 98.620, Russia continues to hold at bay its main opponents.

“The Russian team will keep progressing forever, we will improve our training and also provide the best performances to demonstrate our skills to our competitors,” assured Anzhelika Timanina.

Russian head coach Tatiana Pokrovskaia can be credited for the country’s first breakthrough in 1998. Since then, Russia remained the dominant force in the team event throughout seven editions of the World Championships (four in the “traditional” team event in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005 and six triumphs in 2007, 2009 and 2011 in technical and free routines).

In their glittering purple suits, the local squad dazzled both the judges and the home crowd cheering from the stands, scoring an overall 96.580. With this result, China’s great evolution continues to amaze, improving from their bronze-medal finish in Rome.

Japanese coach Masayo Imura sets ambitious goals for her charges, a year ahead of the Olympic showdown: “Russia has a very strong team and between the first and second place there is a very big gap. Before London 2012, I will definitely consider how to narrow this gap.”

Not far behind with a total 96.090 points, the Spaniards brought artistry to a whole new level, performing to a dramatic composition by Salvador Niebla and Joan Albert Amargos called “The Ocean”. Wearing a piranha figure on their red and green swimsuits and headpieces, the Spanish squad is never short on innovation, performing all sorts of twists and flips when tossed in the air.

“Shanghai was a stepping stone in our preparation for London. We will strive to prepare ourselves better in order to win medals in London,” said Marga Crespi after the event.

The Canadians’ refreshing performance was based on the “Conquest of the West”, earning them a respectable 95.490 for fourth place. “Many teams present their Olympic programmes in Shanghai; this is not our case, we will see here what the trends are for the Olympics,” said Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon.

Team Russia - credit: Giorgio Scala
Team Russia - credit: Giorgio Scala

Japan proved they have their place among the world’s best, finishing fifth. The Asian nation was no stranger to the podium until 2007 but since the rise of direct rival China, the country steadily dropped spots in the rankings.  

On the possibility for Japan to revive its glorious days, Yumi Adachi is confident: “Japan can be back on top. We are a mixed team; the young swimmers try to catch up with the level of the experienced ones so that we build a united team for the future,” she continues.

Hopes also rest within new head coach Gana Maximova from Russia: “Our coach respects the Japanese style which is more technique-orientated but at the same time, the Japanese team would like to acquire artistic skills, like the Russian team. So it is a mixture of both Japanese and Russian styles,” explains the Japanese athlete.

Ukraine, eighth in Rome, made a terrific progress in two years, making the top-6, ahead of strong Europeans Italy and France.

Fifth at home two years ago, the Italian team dropped two spots in their classification, placing seventh. “All members are new on the team; we still need to improve our technique and precision,” noted Japanese coach Yumiko Tomomatsu.

France, which has been a regular competitor in recent years, remains consistent on the international synchro stage, placing eighth.

The British team continues their steady progression, moving up to ninth place and keeping high hopes for their home Games next year: “Here it’s really just to show the judges that we are really improving as a country so that we can get the best scores for 2012,” said Jenna Randall.

The team will use this meet as a stepping stone for their preparation: “We are going to try new ideas when we go back to training in August, to test and find out some new things for 2012,” she continued.

Then-dominant USA took 10th. Mayuko Fujiki, an experienced Japanese coach, is in charge of the U.S. team since January: “This is a new and mixed team; some were in Rome and some never swam international meets. It took me five months to really get them together. Right before coming here we had a good energy together and we just wanted to show that.”  

Mexico and Brazil, the two main synchro forces in Latin America, placed 11th and 12th respectively.