Russia, China and Spain make top-3 ahead of duet final

London 2012 Synchro

The crowd reserved a loud reception for the 104 competitors of the 2012 Olympic Games synchronised swimming duet competition, taking place from August 5-7 at London's brand new Aquatics Centre. The 24 duets performed a technical routine on day 1 (August 5) and a free routine on day 2 (August 6), the scores of which are combined to decide the twelve duets that will advance to the final, scheduled for August 7.

Recently-formed Russian duo, Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina, delivered a speedy technical routine on Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us", earning 98.200. On the following day, they swam to near-perfection their free programme, receiving an impressive 98.600, for a total score of 196.800. "They first swam this routine at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai but we changed half of it for the London Olympics, we added many new elements and increased the difficulty," said coach Tatiana Dachenko.

Also new as a duet at this level, China's Xuechen Huang and Ou Liu secure a spot in the top-3 by scoring 96.100 in the technical routine while their dragon-themed free programme received 96.710 points, for an overall 192.810.

Spain, also featuring a new pair with Andrea Fuentes and Ona Carbonell at these Games, finished 0.1 point behind China following the technical routine (96.000). 29-year-old Andrea Fuentes, who earned Spain's first silver with partner Gemma Mengual at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, feels in top shape in London: "We did our best swim, we swam with passion. Our coach Anna [Tarres] said we never did so well so we are proud of us."

In their passionate Tango free routine, the Spanish duet scored 96.590, totalling 192.590 points. "I'm very happy with the way they swam. We have been working a lot on this routine, to make it really synchronised, with a high level of elegance and sophistication," explained their coach, Anna Tarres, after the swim. "They spend more than half of the routine underwater," she underlined.

Going into the final, Canada is fourth with a total 189.250 points. Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon and Elise Marcotte humorously played Court jesters with a wink at the British royal family, to the delight of the audience, a free routine they kept secret until today. "I'm disappointed by the score, even if it is higher than at other competition," admitted coach Julie Sauve. Boudreau-Gagnon, who is still missing an Olympic medal to her resume, said: "Our goal is really to have good performances throughout the competition and give a boost to Canada to go for a medal in the Team event." 

credit: Giorgio Scala 

Japan's Yukiko Inui and Chisa Kobayashi finished fifth in the duet preliminary phase with a total score of 186.400. "This is not an event we can improve on in one day. We will perform step by step and pay attention to detail," assured Kobayashi. 

Settled in sixth are the Ukrainians Daria Iushko and Kseniya Sydorenko with 184.340 points. "It's their best result so far. Technically, these girls are very good," said coach Olesia Zaitseva. "We're not planning on medals but hoping to improve one place higher in the finals," said Iushko, meaning they will have to beat the Japanese duet, which for now enjoys a 2.060 point advantage. "The crowd is amazing; they cheer not only for Great Britain but for everybody," she added.

Italians Giulia Lapi and Mariangela Perrupato head to the final in seventh with a total 181.440 while Greek Evangelia Platanioti and Despoina Solomou, another consistent country in the sport, are in eighth place. 

Host Great Britain started well in front of the home crowd with Jenna Randall and Olivia Federici totalling 176.890 points for a place ahead of the American (tenth) and French (eleventh) pairs, despite some synchronisation mistakes in the execution. Reflecting on their technical performance, Randall said: "We are very happy with the score, we haven't been able to see that 88 in tech routine for a while and we are ahead of the people we wanted to be in this competition so far."

As for the free routine, she added: "It was a good swim but not one of our best, there were a few technical aspects of our routine that were not perfect so we hope to get them fixed for tomorrow's final." On their journey to these home Games, she concluded: "It's a lot of hard work, training many hours a week, our coach 'Biz' Price from Canada since 2007 has made us improve so much throughout the years, being 22nd in 2007 to top 8 or 9 now." 

credit: Giorgio Scala 

USA's Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva totalled 176.170 after their Olympic spirit-inspired free routine. "I'm not really worried about the scores right now because the duets ranked 8, 9, 10, 11, we are very close, you just have to focus on getting the best out there," said coach Mayuko Fujiki. She also explained the theme of the routine: "There is a story from the very beginning until the end; there is a little boy who watches the Olympic Games opening ceremony on TV for the first time and gets really touched and decides to do sports until the end and becomes an Olympian."   

French Sara Labrousse and Chloe Willhelm scored an overall 176.040. "We always look for something that others haven't done, bring something new to our discipline, advance the sport to something else, there are many difficulties in this routine," said coach Julie Fabre. She also explained the choreography building for their free programme: "We worked with a dancer from the Franco Dragone show in Las Vegas 'The Dream', who knew nothing about synchronised swimming, with maximum openness on creativity, many new elements emerged from our collaboration and we then adapted into the routine." 

The preliminaries ended with a surprise: the Korean twins Hyunha and Hyunsun Park, who obtained higher scores both in the technical and free routines (for a total 174.160), finished a slight 0.060 point ahead of Brazilians Nayara Figueira and Lara Teixeira, who produced an original performance inspired by the human body (wearing head caps shaped as a brain), ending their hopes to swim in the duet final.  

The twelve remaining duets that won't swim in the final are the following: Brazil (13th), Czech Republic (14th), Kazakhstan (15th), DPR Korea (16th), Israel (17th), Mexico (18th), Austria (19th), Switzerland (20th), Hungary (21st), Argentina (22nd), Australia (23rd) and Egypt (24th).