“We will never surrender!”

Shanghai 2011 - Synchronised Swimming

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.

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Greece finds Brazil a tough nut to crack

Shanghai 2011 - Water Polo

altGreece had to come from down twice to shake off Brazil, winning their Group C women’s water polo match at the Natatorium today.

Playing the second day of the competition, Brazil led 2-1 and 4-3 before scoring the equalising goal at 5-5 by halftime.

Greece moved to 8-5 but Brazil scored either side of the final break to bring the game to 7-8. However, Greece had the better of the final four minutes, winning 11-8.

It was Greece’s second win and sets it up for the final group game on Thursday against Russia, who accounted for Spain 18-8 in the earlier match.

Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA was devastating in that match, scoring five goals in a game where Spain struggled to compete.

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Is 2011 the year of China’s Grand Slam?

Shanghai 2011 - Diving

credit: Giorgio ScalaThe 1m women’s competition has never been so successful for China as the other diving events. Considering the whole history of this event (since FINA World Championships in 1991) the Chinese divers won the gold title three times. In five other editions, the victory was captured by other hands. Or “by other legs”.

This expression really reflects the main idea of 1m springboard: if the diver wants to be successful, he must have (besides the perfect technique) very strong legs. Otherwise the dives never look impressive. Women's diving at 1m is never so difficult as men's, but diving ladies have their own advantage.

When 1m competition got its first international recognition it became clear that not every male diver was able to compete at this height. Some of the world leaders were so big, strong and pressed the springboard with so much power, that the flexible metal board touched the water surface. If this happens, the springboard looses its ability to push the diver to the air as high as it could be done with the higher springboard.

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Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) earns gold medal in FINA 10km; first British athlete to qualify for London Olympics

Shanghai 2011 - Open Water Swimming

altKeri-Anne Payne of Great Britain, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist convincingly defended her title of world champion in the women's 10km on Jinshan City Beach in Shanghai. Payne edged out Martina Grimaldi of Italy by 1.8 seconds, completing the race in the time of 2:01.58.1. Marianna Lymperta of Greece earned the bronze medal finishing 3.7 seconds behind the British champion. 

Payne was the 10km champion in the 2009 edition held in Rome. She becomes the first British athlete to qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games. "It's hasn't sunk in yet that I have qualified or that I have won. I'm waiting to hear from my sister who is pregnant with her first child. I'll be in touch with her as soon as I get out of doping control. Then I am looking forward to a swim down and a good nights sleep," said Payne. 

"The media have asked me if I have felt any pressure in the lead up to this race, but I really haven't noticed any. My main focus has been in making the Olympic Team. I will be swimming the 1500m in the pool next week and I may also be on the 4 x 200m free relay as well. I'm looking forward to getting into the pool to see how I feel." When asked about her race Payne admitted "leading the race is my usual tactic and I wanted to be out front from the start. I don't like it when we fight in the pack. When I am leading I have a pretty good idea where everyone is and I know that they must pass me if they want to lead."

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Russian duo wins tech routine, China repeats silver success

Shanghai 2011 - Synchronised Swimming

altIn 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.

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Hungary shakes off dominant Montenegro

Shanghai 2011 - Water Polo

altIt’s not often that Hungary finds itself in a two-goal-down situation twice in a match but it did not seem to phase the team that has won the past three Olympic titles.

Hungary, however, needed a 4-1 final quarter to turn the tables on Montenegro in Group A action in what was an exhilarating start to the men’s water polo competition at the Natatorium.

Super coach Denes KEMENY urged his players on but the writing was on the wall and Montenegro looked good to win the match at the final break.

Hungary poured on the power and the goals with three from extra-man advantage to go 11-9 ahead inside two minutes, giving up a Montenegro goal at 1:26 and hold on for victory.

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Golden double for China

Shanghai 2011 - Diving

credit: Giorgio ScalaThe 1m springboard competition exists in the FINA World Championships programme since 1991. It happened four times that divers from the same country got gold and silver in this event. And this country was always the same – China.

Curiously, the 1m springboard is an event where non-Chinese divers have better chances to fight for victory. Sometimes it looks like Chinese sport leaders don't pay much attention to this non-Olympic discipline. In Shanghai, for instance, the host country was represented neither with the reigning world champion in the men’s 1m event Qin Kai, nor with the 2007 world champion Luo Yutong : these two divers are preparing their participation in the 3m event. Therefore, the top places in the lowest board went to newcomers – Li Shixin and He Min.

The preliminary round was won by the Chinese with a comfortable advantage of 30 and 25 points over Javier Illana (ESP) but for them that wasn't a clean performance. Li Shixin made a serious mistake performing his 2.5 Reverse Pike (305B) and got just 48 points for the dive, while He Min missed the entry in 2.5 Back Tuck (205C), and only scored 43.50.

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Ishchenko retains title in Solo tech, Huang home hero with silver

Shanghai 2011 - Synchronised Swimming

altFor 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.

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China easily wins first men’s final

Shanghai 2011 - Diving

Men’s 10 m platform – the most exciting event of the diving programme. That is why the individual final in this event used to conclude the major competitions. As for synchronised diving it has its own “secret”: there are just four free dives to perform, not six. So it is possible to include a more demanding combination into the programme and it makes the competition tighter and unpredictable.

But this is theory. The real thing is that China won the two last World Championships in this event and on both occasions the winner was more than 20 points ahead of the other teams.

China had a kind of new team in Shanghai: Qiu Bo and Huo Liang never dived together at such important level. Huo Liang got two gold medals (Melbourne 2007 and Rome 2009) with Lin Yue, while Qiu Bo captured silver in the individual platform in Italy, two years ago.

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Olympic champion Netherlands regains some Beijing lustre

Shanghai 2011 - Water Polo

USA vs NED - credit: Russell McKinnonNetherlands could prove the “dark horse” of the women’s water polo competition at the XIV FINA World Championships at the Natatorium.

In the opening game of the championship, the most credentialled women’s teams — holders of all four major titles — battled to a 7-7 draw, making the following games all that more important to decide who shall go through, possibly, as Group A winner.

The game was always close with centre forwards dominating and defensive structures impenetrable at times.

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