Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent in the US

(LOS ANGELES) – Yelyzaveta Yakhno of Ukraine picked up three more medals (two gold, one silver) at the FINA Artistic Series World Series stop in Los Angeles on Thursday, extending her streak of 11 medals in her last 11 events.

But the routine of the day belonged to the Jiang twins of China in the technical duet. The two-time Olympic medalists seized the highest score of the day – the only one over 90 points – with a fast, clean Flamenco program.

“We’ve only been doing this routine two years because we had our babies,” Jiang Wen Wen said casually, referring to her 3-year-old daughter and Jiang Ting Ting’s daughter who is only six months younger.  

Yakhno’s first gold came in solo technical, where she edged her friendly rival Jacqueline Simoneau of Canada. With Anastasiya Savchuk, Yakhno took silver in the duet technical event, and the two collaborated with six of their countrywomen to close the day with gold in the team technical program, ahead of Japan and Canada.

Yakhno wins solo tech. Photo by Liz Corman

SOLO TECHNICAL

In the solo technical program alone, Yakhno now has four medals in the 2018 World Series – but Thursday  produced her first gold in the discipline. She captured it with a smooth swim to the moody music of “My Sins” by Tina Karol. While her 89.4811 score in Los Angeles was slightly lower than the one she earned last week in Surrey (by .1811 points) she said, “I trained many times since [last weekend],” and on Monday, her 20th birthday, “I had a small rest.”

Silver medalist Jacqueline Simoneau swam confidently to Lorde’s version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” from the “Hunger Games” soundtrack.  Compared to the program’s debut last week in Surrey, Canada, which earned bronze, Simoneau said, “This one was more fun. I had a blast!” Over the past week, Simoneau, 21, said she worked on “little details like where to look at judges, a little on the arms – to have a variety of height levels.” And on Thursday, she said, “I felt like I really connected with the judges which is more fun for me when I swim.”

Ukraine’s long-limbed and flexible Marta Fiedina, 16, had the third-highest solo technical score, but rules prohibit more than one medal per nation per event so the bronze medal went to Minami Kono of Japan who debuted her expressive Cirque du Soleil program.

“It was a very nice competition I did,” said Kono, 21, who trains in Tokyo.

It was worth noting that the solo technical event marked the fifth time Simoneau has placed behind Yakhno this season. Asked where the 21-year-old Olympian might be able to gain another point or two to overtake Yakhno in the future, Canadian coach Leslie Anne Sproule said, “Her impression mark could have been a bit higher, but honestly, that’s the best I’ve seen her swim. Her elements were strong and high and accurate. The only things from my perspective were getting the drop spaces on the Barracuda spin more even, but I definitely thought that was a 90-plus swim.

Sproule called Simoneau “in a league of her own” when it comes to elegance and the way she feels that piece of music. “It’s really good music for her. She loves it and you can see it in her performance.”

Jiang Ting Ting and Wen Wen win duet tech. Photo by Liz Corman

DUET TECHNICAL

In the duet technical event, China’s Jiang twins scored 90.0649 in a riveting performance to clicking castanets and Spanish guitar.  Although the 31-year-old Jiangs had performed that routine at the 2017 FINA World Championships, fans were stunned by their timing, lines, power, and sheer entertainment value.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said a young competitor in the stands.

And yet, “It’s getting better and better,” Jiang Wen Wen said.

Silver medalists Yakhno and Savchuk said their performance to Beethoven’s Sonata 5 was “very good.” Asked what they might have done differently, Savchuk said, “I don’t know,” while Yakhno said, “nothing.” It was their second consecutive silver medal in duet technical.

Japan’s Minami Kono, 21, and Yuriko Osawa, 21, claimed the bronze with a modern routine whose music featured heavy percussion and a few video game sound effects.  It was the first time they had performed the program internationally, even though they had been a duet together for 12 years at the same club.  “We tried to do it [today] like [in] practice,” said Kono.

Ukraine takes team tech gold. Photo by Liz Corman

TEAM TECHNICAL

Ukraine’s team technical program to the movie soundtrack of Baron Munchausen looked highly polished and dynamic on Thursday, especially on its first throw where its flyer landed nearly vertical, with very little splash.  Ukraine was rewarded with gold, just as it had been last week in Surrey, Canada. Ukraine now has five World Series medals in the team technical program.

“I am so happy because we have a lot of difficult synchro in this routine,” said Maryna Aleksiiva afterward. “This is a way hard program, just incredible.”

Japan’s robot-themed performance took silver, nearly two points behind Ukraine. It was the first and last time this group will perform this program this year. The most enjoyable part, according to Akane Yanagisawa, “is the hand movements.”   Its coach explained earlier that the crew it sent to Los Angeles is like Japan’s B Team.  (Its top team competed last week in Surrey, Canada, then returned home.)

Canada claimed the bronze with its endlessly fun “Less Talk More Art” routine.

“It felt good,” said Halle Pratt, 18, of Canada. “The main goal, really, was to have good team energy and swim as one. We achieved that, for sure.”

Results

Solo technical
1.    Yelyzaveta Yakhno (UKR) 89.4811
2.    Jacqueline Simoneau (CAN) 88.0345
3.    Minami Kono (JPN) 85.5096

Duet technical
1.    Jiang Ting Ting and Jiang Wen Wen (CHN) 90.0649
2.    Yelyzaveta Yakhno and Anastasiya Savchuk (UKR) 89.8886
3.    Minami Kono and Yuriko Osawa (JPN) 86.3859

Team technical
1.    Ukraine (UKR) 89.5333
2.    Japan (JPN) 87.6724
3.    Canada (CAN) 85.9062