David Hulmes, FINA Press Correspondent in Japan

Ona Carbonell scored a decisive triumph in the solo event, as the Tokyo leg of the FINA Synchronised Swimming World Series got under way on Friday.

Carbonell top-scored in the technical session with 92.2446, pursued by home-crowd favourite Yukiko Inui (91.0121) and Canadian Jacqueline Simoneau (88.7567).

Making her fourth appearance at the Japan Open, and her sixth visit to the country, Carbonell said at Thursday’s press conference that she was aiming for emotional and innovative choreography in a non-stop free routine that she hoped would impress artistically.

And she didn’t disappoint. The 26-year-old scored 93.6667 for her interpretation of Ute Lemper’s cover version of Padam, Padam by Edith Piaff.

Inui scored 91.9000 to claim silver with a total of 182.9121, while Simoneau’s 90.9667 gave her 178.7234 and third place. They had also taken silver and bronze respectively at the first leg of the FINA World Series in Paris.

“It’s the first time I’ve done this routine in competition — it’s good to do it in a big pool in front of judges. I’m sure we will be changing many things for the FINA World Championships this summer. For this event I'm happy, but I think I can improve much more,“ said Carbonell, who designed both of the costumes she wore today in collaboration with the School of Design in Barcelona, where she studied.

“This is the first year that we've had a World Series. It’s good for synchro because it can attract people to the sport and make it more popular around the world. So I think, as swimmers, we have to help this World Series develop, and I will try to go to a minimum of four World Series events, including the Spanish Open, USA Open and Uzbekistan Open.

Ona Carbonell (ESP)

Inui, a bronze medallist in the duet and team events at Rio 2016, said this would be her last competition before the FINA World Championships in Budapest, in July. The 26-year-old added she would restrict her training to Japan.

“I have been practising the speed of my swimming, and using the upper half of my body more dynamically. I think I was able to show that I’ve been working on that,” she said.

“On top of that, I need to work more on my difficulty skills so that they are more convincing.”

Simoneau was very clear as to which areas she would like to improve with the FINA World Championships in mind.

“There’s many things I’d like to work on going towards Budapest. My presence has got a lot better compared with my last World Series event in France, but I’d like to improve my neck length, and if I could improve my extensions it would be a great step up for Budapest,” said the 20-year-old, who anticipates attending this event each year in the run-up to her long-term target, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“My free solo music was from a Procter & Gamble commercial that was used right before the Rio Olympics. It’s something that’s dear to my heart — the commercial has always touched me — but I kind of twisted the theme a bit.

“Next week I’ll be competing in my home event in the World Series, so that will be a chance for another step up.”

Japan posted a commanding display in the team technical routine, which was sandwiched by the two solo disciplines.

The hosts scored 91.5684. Second-placed Mexico (85.5436) also had clear water between themselves and Kazakhstan (78.6959), in third.

Saturday sees the mixed duet and free combination medals awarded, while the team and duet events reach their conclusion on Sunday.

The Synchro Japan Open, which also features domestic title events, is the third stop on the seven-leg FINA Synchronised Swimming World Series.

The World Series bandwagon next moves on to Toronto, Canada, starting May 2. It then calls at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, and Long Island, USA, before concluding in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent.