Following the overwhelming domination of Team Russia at the latest FINA Artistic Swimming World Series leg, in Kazan (RUS, April 16-18), FINA, with the help of press correspondent Olga Kamardina, plunged into the universe of the discipline’s two most iconic figures of the current times, Svetlana Romashina (31) and Svetlana Kolesnichenko (27).
Tallying 6 Olympic gold medals together (5 for Romashina, 1 for Kolesnichenko) and 42 World titles (23 for Romashina and 19 for Kolesnichenko), the Russian duet did not let the pressure to return to international competition impact their performance last weekend and presented a brand new routine which was highly rated by the jury and the public. They scored 96.1017 points in the Duet Technical for the gold.
How did you prepare for this competition on home soil? Was it more stressful than usual coming back in the swimming pool after so many months?
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: As a part of the Russian team, we are getting ready for the Olympics. Our training schedule is very tough. We are always in the training camp center. FINA Artistic Swimming World Series Leg#3 in Kazan was one of the many steps on the road to Tokyo 2020.
Svetlana Romashina: We tested here our new program in Duet and together with our 2019 World Championshiped reformed Team Technical routine. It was no more stressful than usual, I would say, it was a even a bigger pleasure to feel competing again.
What was your favourite routine from other competitors in Kazan and why?
Svetlana Romashina: Japanese duo Yukiko Inui and Yoshida Megumu presented a very interesting programme as a duo, where they imitated robots. It’s a new programme, and it was a pleasure to watch. In solo Russian junior star Daria Kirsanova shone bright in her Technical programme. Daria is a daughter of Maria Kiseleva, 3-time Olympic champion, and together they are always staging something interesting.
What do tou think about the Kazan Aquatics palace, in which you performed at your best in 2015 for the World Championships?
Svetlana Romashina: The Aquatics Palace of Kazan is very dear to us. We first saw it ahead of the World Universiade 2013, in 2012. Almost every year we swim here national competitions and FINA World Series. It is always a pleasure for us to present to the public our new routines. They are very warm and cheering. By the way, they support everyone swimming no matter what country the athlete presents. It’s quite beneficial for us that we restart competing at home, at the Aquatics Palace, where we feel most comfortable. It’s good we have up to 50% of the public. For me it is important to swim in front of the public and see their eyes and response. In Budapest there was no public at all.
How did your training schedule look like in the past year?
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: Nothing actually changed in our training schedule, in spite of the pandemic. Of course, our competition plans have been ruined, but we proceeded training hard. Maybe a little less than before competitions or in the height of the season, but it was a lot. We were locked in a training camp center. For the first two months we had no opportunity to train, we stayed at home. In June we went to Ozero Krugloe.
Svetlana Romashina: For the first two months we had no access to training facilities, in April and in May. In June we got it. As far as I understand, we got the privilege much earlier than athletes of many other countries, and we were very grateful for this. We had no prospect for a competition ahead of us, but we could train on to keep fit. We did our regular trainings with no changes regarding covid situation. The only thing which was a great upset for us was we missed home.
Was it very difficult to stand those restrictions?
Svetlana Romashina: We knew, we would have restrictions, but could not expect them to be so difficult to stand.
The most difficult thing was we did not understand what will happen later, we lived in a sort of big uncertainty."
We could not understand why we are suffering those restrictions. Why are we to overcome. The whole Russian squad decided to have a training camp and train all together and that summer, 24 days at the training camp centre with no days out, got us together as a team. We have never spent so much time together. We missed home, I badly missed my little child. Just before this training camp we had been locked down at home. This helped me to take the decision to either proceed training one more year or stop.
Svetlana Kolesnichrenko: In March, as far as I remember, we were due to go to France for the World Series, but on a short notice decided to cancel the trip as the covid situation in the world got worse. Everyday we got some sad news. They cancelled European Championships, then Olympic Games were postponed.
How do you combine family and work?
Svetlana Romashina: It seems there is no chances to combine these two things. In fact it is rather difficult to say, that we are combining the two activities.
We have to sacrifice something in the name of something."
At this stage our sacrifice is our family. Always in the training camp centre, I have a chance to see my baby just 2 days a month. This is a sacrifice indeed in the name of the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo, which I very much hope, will be staged this August. When we have a day off we try to make it for everything, million of tasks, which is hardly possible to hit.
How do your families feel about that?
Svetlana Romashina: It’s pretty ok for the parents. They know we are at the training camp. We are safe, secured and well fed. Husbands and children is another story. How shall I explain to my child that we are to see each other just 2 days a month for the whole year? Not possible. My child is small, but she understands a lot, and misses a lot, and I feel very uncomfortable. My heart breaks and I feel I am bad mother.
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: For me it is a little easier. I am staying away from my parents since I am 13. We do not see each other often, only keep in touch by mobile. My husband is a sportsman, so he understands me well, and he supports me very much indeed.
How do you celebrate wins?
Svetlana Romashina: Well, it depends on the competition and number of days off we receive after it. If we celebrate a big win, we meet out teammates in a restaurant: we enjoy a good meal, sing songs in karaoke or dance.
Do you have a chance to have a rest after the competitions?
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: Two days maximum is what we can afford ourselves now, at this time of the Olympic season.
What do you usually do in this rare occasion?
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: We sleep in. Go out in a restaurant or see friends.
Svetlana Romashina: We eat whatever we like, we have no restrictions. We sleep well, train hard. If we have a chance to go out and have a walk, which is very beneficial, we do it.
The Russian team has a successful artistic swimming history, being the most decorated team at the Olympics and the FINA World Championships. How do you deal with the pressure? Do you have any particular goals for Tokyo?
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: We always strive to win. However, before competitions, we never say we shall be gold or something like that.
When you go out and swim, you are to do your best, abstracting from what achievements you might win if you do well"
I think there might be a pressure of another kind. We have not competed for long. Last we performed at the World Championships in 2019. It has been a while. Such a gap is for the first time. Every time we swim, we swim 100% of what we can. We never think we shall be number one. We shall do our job, show what we can. This is not about the pressure of long wining history.
Svetlana Romashina: Some media make pressure. This makes fuss, not acceptable for us. Sometimes they ask how we shall spend out prize money, before the competitions launch. Once upon arrival to the swimming pool we saw a big slogan, congratulating us on the eventual gold, which was not ethical. We try to abstract from all of this. We would very much love to keep up the Russian winning traditions.
What plans do you have after Olympics? Any projects?
Svetlana Kolesnichenko: For me, the question is still open. After Olympics I shall have a rest, then get response from my body, because the training loads in our sport are very hard. Then I will look, if I can go on or not.
Svetlana Romashina: I pretty well realise that Tokyo should be my fourth Games, and they should be the last one in my athlete’s career. It’s very likely to be my final performance. My family is waiting for me. I would very much like to have the second baby. There are a lot of thoughts in my head, where to go. Maybe coaching, maybe international sport relations. By the way, I’d love to become a part of FINA Family, and work on for the benefit of the artistic swimming movement.