Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent in the US

(EAST MEADOW, N.Y.)  - On Day 2 of the FINA Synchro World Series in New York, the U.S., Canada, and Argentina finished 1-2-3 in the team event to earn the first senior medals at the America Open.

But Friday began with the highly-anticipated mixed duet technical program in which the 2015 world champion Bill May of the U.S. and his new partner, Kanako Spendlove, took the top score with a steamy routine that earned them a commanding lead (86.3349 points). After that, Ona Carbonell of Spain crushed the field in all three components of the solo technical program (execution, impression, and elements) to take first place.

For May, however, the America Open was a homecoming. He last competed in his home state in 1999 and, before that, at the 1998 Goodwill Games in the very same venue: the Nassau County Aquatics Center.

With his family watching, May and Spendlove debuted a routine that a female spectator accurately called “spicy, spicy, spicy” – for everything from its intimate deck work to its fiery red costumes to its choice of music (“Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” by Chris Isaak).

Afterwards, their U.S. coach, Chris Carver, was pleased but felt there was still room to improve their elements and synchronization. “That’s why we’re here,” Carver said. “It’s the first time they’ve ever swam it in public, first time they’ve ever swam together in a technical program.”

Bill May and Kanako Spendlove (USA) win mixed duet tech program - Photo by Liz Corman

The new Canadian duo of Robert Prevost and Isabelle Blanchet-Rampling, took second place (79.2398) with a program inspired by a fight between angels and demons.  

“It felt great!” Blanchet-Rampling said in the cool-down pool afterwards. “The energy here has been crazy-fun. We’re very excited for [the free program] tomorrow. Our coaches are already onto what we need to do next. This is a great step for us.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s Niklas Stoepel (who is working on his master’s degree in mechanical engineering) and Amelie Ebert (a medical student) turned in their best mambo-themed technical performance to date, earning 70.7847 points for third place.

“Our goal was to reach 70 points so it’s quite good,” Ebert said, “but we want to go [up] for Worlds.

About an hour later, in the solo technical program, Carbonell convincingly transformed herself into a snake in a creative routine that scored 90.3424 points. The Spaniard’s two-minute serpentine program was the brainstorm of her French coach, Virginie Dedieu. “She said I’m really flexible so she thinks that it’s a really good thematic for my body,” Carbonell said.

Regarding the performance itself, Carbonell said, “I’m happy because my elements were better than at the last World Series [stop in Spain]. I can do the last element more explosive, but it’s better.”

Ona Carbonell (ESP) wins solo tech program - Photo by Liz Corman

Taking second place (with 87.9708 points) in the solo technical event, Canada’s Jacqueline Simoneau proved once again to be an amazingly quick and successful study with a routine that she and her old synchro coach, Johana Vasquez, only whipped up last week.

“We had a lot of changes in Synchro Canada…I’m really happy to be back with her,” said Simoneau of the reunion with her coach earlier in June. For Friday’s tech program, she explained, “We took the Red Violin music that I used in 2011. Violin is the instrument that I absolutely adore! I used to play it when I was little. So the routine was so easy to make, because I was so passionate. It pieced together really well and we decided to compete with it this week. This is the solo routine I’ll swim in Budapest [at Worlds].

Anita Alvarez of the U.S. ranked third with a score of 80.5843.    

Finally, in a highly-entertaining team free event, the U.S. closed the night with a winning routine to the rhythms of Africa.  Canada’s young NextGen team placed second with a “We the North” theme that wove the music of Drake under more-traditional synchro music. Canadian coach Jennifer Koptie called it “their best swim” and co-coach Kasia Kulesza said it was “a great accomplishment” because they had only been together for four weeks.  Argentina placed third, just as it had in the tech program on Thursday, with an enthusiastic eye on its future.

USA wins Team gold on Day 2 of America Open - Photo by Liz Corman

Final scores: Team event

1. USA -  166.2664 (84.9000 free + 81.3664 tech)
2. Canada -  163.2074 (84.2667 free + 78.9407 tech)
3. Argentina -  153.3469 (78.9000 free + 74.4469 tech)