FINA World Championships
World’s synchro trio strengthens overall lead
The 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.
Like two peas in a pod
Duet synchro swimmers are like two peas in a pod. Why? Because after spending months and years training and competing together, they inevitably develop some sort of special connection. They share the ups and downs of this demanding sport, celebrate success and overcome deception, like best friends or sisters do. Tonight, such close connection was visible in many of the duets free routine, but also out of the pool.
Russian pair Natalia Ishchenko/Svetlana Romashina, who already swam the Duet free together in Rome, repeated as World champions, amassing a total score of 98.410 while identical twins Tingting and Wenwen Jiang from China overtook Spanish rivals Andrea Fuentes and Ona Carbonell by 0.310 point for an overall 96.810.
Bicycle allows Canada to fly
A bicycle, by nature, is a relatively slow means of transport. In Canada, it has wings and allows to fly. Nonsense? Not in the case of the local synchronised swimming teams. In 2000 and 2001, respectively at the Sydney Olympics and the Fukuoka FINA World Championships, Claire Carver-Dias simulated riding a bicycle in a routine meant to symbolise different sports. 10 years later, Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon is the new “bicycle girl”, after performing the same element in Shanghai. Thanks to this and many other spectacular figures, Canada got a thrilling bronze medal in the Free Combination event, in what was probably the most interesting final of the programme so far.
With one team to go, things looked pretty much the same as in previous days, with Russia comfortably first, China second, and Spain (2009 champion in this event), third. But then, the Canadians entered the water and definitely stole the show with a breathtaking performance in their pet event, finally obtaining a medal after a disappointing fourth place in all previous events. Performing on a medley of Queen, the energetic squad presented a brand-new routine, offering an astonishing array of lifts and throws, frequently punctuated by bursts of applause and wild cheering. Bronze medallists already in Rome (2009) and in Changshu last year, the Canadians leave the Shanghai Oriental Sport Centre with a renewed confidence tonight.
Indomitable Ishchenko, Fuentes at her best
The story of Natalia Ishchenko is one made of sacrifice, perseverance, vision and some luck. Like all the champions’ stories. In a big nation like Russia, it is not easy to be noticed in an artistic sport. Moreover, being spotted while still a teenager is more of a challenge than a blessing. But Natalia was courageous and remained determined. Back then, some years ago, and now, while flawlessly performing at the World Championships stage.
Winner of the Solo free event tonight in Shanghai, with an unbeatable score of 98.550, her story started when she was young and learning rhythmic gymnastics. The Russian great got noticed while competing at a junior competition by Tatiana Pokrovskaia, head coach of the national team since 1998 (the year Russia made its first gold sweep in all synchro events at World Championships in Perth, Australia).
“We will never surrender!”
Resolved, more than ever. So felt the Spanish squad tonight after the conclusion of the technical programmes for Solo, Duet and Team, with a repeat of the podium Russia-China-Spain in all three events. With the first final of the free routines starting tomorrow, the question excites synchro fans more and more: Is it China or Spain which will be world number-2 after Shanghai? At this stage, here’s what we can say.
Untouchable in all technical routines, Russia has a firm lock on the top spot and seems the less troubled by its main challengers’ recent progress, Spain and China. If the Russians rarely give extended comments about their rivals, they always congratulate them. As for the Russian squad’s routines, truth is that they practically speak for themselves. Perfect synchronisation, breath-taking strength and height in all figures are common indications of their magnificent performance. In the team event tonight, they showed what they do best, scoring a brilliant 98.300 points.
Russian duo wins tech routine, China repeats silver success
In 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.
Ishchenko retains title in Solo tech, Huang home hero with silver
For the third straight world meet, Russia’s synchronised swimming icon Natalia Ishchenko clinched the title in the Solo technical routine on the first day of the 14th FINA World Championships synchro competition at Shanghai’s new sporting venue, the superb Oriental Sports Centre Indoor Stadium.
If the first place was virtually already reserved for the Russian world champion, the remaining podium spots welcomed two new soloists with a first success at this level: home revelation Xuechen Huang came second and Spain’s ever-impressive Andrea Fuentes, third.
The synchronised swimming competition started on a high note, celebrating its 50th final held in the FINA World Championships history. The Solo technical routine, a non-Olympic event, featured 34 countries, during which athletes must perform six required elements in a given sequence in only two minutes. Scores are given for overall impression and execution, with prominence given to the latter.