Helsinki 2014: Japanese duo close to upend top favourite Russia
Perennial favourite Russia added two more to its multitude of titles in juniors’ synchro swimming (15 to 18 years), but it won Saturday’s first event at the 14th FINA World Junior Synchronised Swimming Championships in Helsinki, Finland, the duet only with a very slight margin ahead of Japan. Two 17-year-old twins from Moscow, Anastasia and Daria Bayandina edged out Japan’s duo of Kano Omata and Asuka Tasaki by a hair’s breadth, 0.13 points.
Russia later took the team event title with the Bayandina sisters picking up a second gold medal for the day, while Omata and Tasaki added silvers of their own.
Anastasia and Daria Bayandina, still 17 years of age, is the newest Russian pair to win the junior world title in the duet, and to gain success with a possible view towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They started in synchro swimming at nine, and moved to Moscow at 12 years of age.
The Russian pair scored 168.84 points against Japan’s 168.71, retaining its silver position from 2012. China was third, reentering the podium after finishing without junior medals last time in Greece.
After the team event preliminaries Russia’s team led Japan by a rough 2.6 points, but the Japanese cut the deficit to about 1.9 points. The Russians were technically sound, as usual, and were not to be touched.
Russian duet in action: Anastasia and Daria Bayandina - credit: Kari Pajunen
China took third place in the team event as well, with its free programme bursting of energy at the finish. It was well liked by the crowd in the Makelanrinne Swimming Center.
In the duet, the Bayandina sisters’ artistic routine, depicting dancing in the water, was rewarded with 32.9 points.
"Our technical performance - worth 24.8 points - was a little bit below the standard that we expected. Maybe it was because the girls changed their suits," Russian team coach Natalia Chisova said, with a laugh.
The Japanese looked very happy with their second finish even if the losing margin was disturbingly small.
"We wanted the first prize, but we were 0.1 behind this time. As a duet performance it was just fine, said Suzuko Nakamura, team leader, and a coach at the Aqlub in Tokyo.
The silvery girls come from two different clubs. Asuka Tasaki comes from Osaka, while Kano Omata, already a silver medallist in the team event in 2012, is from Tokyo.
"Omata in fact selected the music together with a girl the same age, and planned routines, fundamentals. They wanted the artistic impression to be funny, wanting it to tell the older people how it is to be girls! The programme had to have difficult technical parts, also to be done at the end of the programme when it is the most demanding to do them. The girls performed well, they could have made it." Nakamura said.
Asuka Tasaki and Kano Omata (JPN) performing for 2nd place - credit: Kari Pajunen
Miwako Homma, member of FINA technical synchronised swimming committee, thought that the team did even better than many thought possible. But she was not ready to make Olympic athletes of those performing.
"They are after all juniors, and need a few more years before they can win more medals. But they swam well, and I am very happy," Homma said.
One medal might come already Sunday.
"When I woke up today, I had so many strong feelings thinking of the rest of the day, and this country we are visiting. And we all swam well, I felt dynamic during the last routine," said Minami Kono, a 17-year old silver medal team member from Tokyo.
"Hopefully we can be the champions in the combo Sunday," she added.