Beijing 2011, Day 1: Host China wins two titles on opening night

After the Thematic Duet - credit: Fei MaohuaChina claimed the two titles in the Synchro Highlight Routine and Thematic Duet on the first day of the 2011 FINA Synchronised Swimming World Trophy at the Water Cube in Beijing on Friday. It is the first time that China wins at the World Trophy since the event was firstly launched in 2006.  The World Trophy allows the use of accessories and the time on the deck may exceed 10 seconds.

It also has an exclusive programme with scores given for artistic impression only and the teams' routine must be inspired by the culture of the host country, i.e. China. All teams performed with different Chinese style, including music, Chi-Pao, dragon dance, silk fans and so on.

On the deck specially designed for the occasion, decorated with the emblematic dragon and phoenix, the host squad performed the real Chinese essence with impressive lifts and throws, winning the Synchro Highlight Routine with a total 97.451 points.

After their performance, China's head coach Wang Jie revealed they have prepared for the World Trophy for a long time:  "We've tried many Chinese traditional elements to put into our routines. We've trained for seveal months for this event. I'm satisfied with my swimmers," Wang said.

Defending champions Spain performed the same routine they did last year with the golden swimsuits and masks, finishing second with 95.863 while Russia took the bronze with 95.576.
 
Anna Tarres, Spanish head coach, was happy with her mixed team of young and veteran swimmers: "We'd like to take this event to test my team for next year's Olympic Games. We have two very young swimmers and two less younger swimmers. We just changed one main swimmer only after we arrived here in Beijing because there is something wrong with her right ear that would affect the balance of her body," she said.

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Chinese performance for the Thematic Duet - credit: Fei Maohua

Canada, Italy and the United States finished in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively.

In the second event of the evening, the Thematic Duet, Zhang Jiawen/Yuan Wenjing of China scored 96.751 points to claim a second title for their country, while former European champion Gemma Mengual from Spain made a strong comeback with partner Ona Carbonell, taking silver with 96.688 points. Russians Victoria Anufrieva/Victoria Shestakovich were third with 96.513.

Mengual, 34, who retired after the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome and is now the mother of a one-year-old son, explains how she's working to be back in top shape:  "I just made a comeback after this year's world championships in Shanghai and started to train for three and a half months. I know it's very difficult to return to the sport. I'm trying my best to catch up with my teammates. I miss my son very much," Mengual said.

A total of nine teams, including 2010 champion Spain, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United States and host China are competing in the World Trophy.