Ukraine Wins First-Ever Olympic Medal in Artistic Swimming

History was made and many records were broken during the duet events at the 2020 Olympic Games. After three days of competition, ROC‘s Svetlana Romashina and Svetlana Kolesnichenko won yet another Olympic gold. Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan from China defended their silver from Rio.

However, one of the biggest story came with the bronze medal winners, as Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk forever inched their names into Ukraine‘s record books.

On August 4, Ukraine became only the eighth country to win an Olympic medal in artistic swimming. Up until today, only Canada, China, France, Japan, Russia, Spain and the U.S. had ever made it up to the podium.

Fiedina and Savchuk had a slight lead of 0.5121 points on Japan‘s Inui Yukiko and Yoshida Megumu after the technical event. In the final, the Ukrainians performed shortly before the Japanese. Their “Flight of Hearts” routine received a massive score of 95.6000. The moment that score came up, it felt that the door had been definitely closed for Japan.

Inui and Yoshida ultimately could not defend Japan’s bronze from Rio despite receiving 94.4667 for their “Robots,” the nation’s best score since 2016 in the event.

Ultimately, the Ukrainians could not be denied the bronze, and finished ahead by 1.6454 points. This first and historical medal for the country is sign of what’s to come. After coming so close to the podium in Rio, the Ukrainians never let down and have moved up the rankings ever since. With talented, up-and-coming generations of athletes in the 13-15 and junior categories, this will likely not be the last time the country makes it onto an Olympic podium.

The Russian Olympic Committee came in as the heavy favorite, and delivered. Svetlana Romashina made history by winning her sixth Olympic gold. She was previously tied with Russian teammates Natalia Ischenko and Anastasiya Davydova, but she is now the sole most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history.

Romashina and Svetlana Kolesnichenko were stunning for ROC in both technical and free events. Right from the start, they immediately shut down any possibility of China winning. Both of their free swims were eventful, as they faced issues with their music. In the preliminary round, the wrong soundtrack played, and they had to leave the deck and walk-on again. In the final, it briefly sounded like there could be more music troubles. They stayed put. Their music ultimately played, although the Russians said afterwards they missed the first two counts.

In the end, they were absolutely unfazed both times. They reached a final score of 98.8000, the highest score for Russian artistic swimmers since 2009. There are very few words to describe how incredible and strong these athletes  and these routines are.

 

Huang Xuechen also made history by winning her sixth Olympic medal. She now has four silver and two bronze medals, and is undoubtedly China’s most successful artistic swimmer. In Tokyo, she and longtime partner Sun Wenyan unveiled a new free routine to the theme of “Snakes.” They were already a point and a half behind ROC after the technical event, and their 96.9000 in free was not enough to come close to the Russian women. Huang and Sun did however successfully defend their silver from Rio, and tied the country’s best finish at the Olympics.

Canada and Italy battled it out for the fifth and sixth-place finishes, and were separated by 0.4096 points in the preliminary round. Both reached new personal-best scores across the technical and free duet finals. Claudia Holzner and Jacqueline Simoneau showcased two powerful routines, but really couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the free score of 93.0000. They ultimately finished fifth, two places higher than the Canadian duet in Rio.

Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro competed in both duet routines for the first time since 2019. Their new free choreography had a theme of “The Departure,” and used tribal music from Antongiulio Frulio. Their technical routine was also new, with original music from Michele Braga. Despite not competing in this event for two years, the Italians held their own and maintained their sixth-place finish from 2016.

Austria‘s Anna Maria and Eirini Alexandri had some of their best swims in Tokyo. They ultimately finished seventh, the country’s best-ever finish at the Olympics. The Austrians also climbed up five spots since the last Games. Overall, it has been a breakthrough season for these two, and the momentum is certainly there for them to keep moving on up over the next Olympic cycle.

It was very tight between France, the Netherlands, Belarus and Spain after the preliminary. All four countries were only separated by 0.686 points in combined scores, and the rankings seemed poised to change in the final.

In the end, Charlotte and Laura Tremble stayed ahead and finished eighth with the highest scores of their careers. The twins had not competed in duet this season until about a month and a half ago. However, they handled the pressure against this extremely competitive field that they didn’t face at the European Championships, and exceeded their own expectations. Both of their routines were different yet highlighted their strengths. Their technical program, touching upon “Violence against Women” was a lot more emotional and heartfelt. Their “Amazon” free routine, which they have swam since 2019, was more intense, powerful, and fast. Of note, their free score of 89.6333 is France’s highest score in the event in 11 years.

Bregje and Noortje de Brouwer also received their personal-best score in free with a 88.9000. It’s been quite a success story for these two and the Netherlands over the last few years. Their rise has been steady and impressive. They ultimately not only qualified the country back to the Games for the first time since 2008, but also made the final. They finished ninth behind the French twins.

Vasilina Khandoshka and Daria Kulagina made history by qualifying Belarus to an Olympic final for the very first time. Despite a stronger technical score than Spain thanks to their “Cancan” routine, their “Witches” free routine could not overcome it in the combined rankings. The Belarusians dropped by one spot from the preliminary to finish in 11th.

The Spanish pair of Iris Tio and Alisa Ozhogina did indeed have a much stronger free swim in the final. The two had not competed in the free duet all season, and only once in tech. Tio and Ozhogina did keep the same flamenco free choreography that their teammates performed in 2019. It was a smart decision to re-use this routine on these two young and inexperienced swimmers, and after a season focusing heavily on the team events. The Spanish managed to sneak up to the 10th place, ahead of the Belarusians by 0.5847 points.

Greece‘s duet of Evangelia Platanioti and Evangelia Papazoglou was right in this mix after the free duet preliminary. But the nation was ultimately forced to withdraw. At the beginning, Platanioti tested positive for Covid-19 back in Athens. Everything seemed to indicate she would miss these Olympics. The team traveled without her, and Maria Alziguzi was announced as the reserve for the duet. However after repeatedly testing negative, Platanioti flew to Japan and arrived the day before the start of the competition.

Despite the quick turnaround, stress, and missed training, Platanioti handled the free duet preliminary incredibly well. The two veterans had not even competed in duet since 2019. Yet, they pulled it off and had an impressive and remarkable performance with no major mistakes. After the first day, they were tied for 10th place with a score of 88.1667. Unfortunately the day of the technical event, multiple members of the Greek squad tested positive, and the federation pulled everybody out of the competition. Platanioti and Papazoglou never got to finish its Olympics, but should be proud of fighting until the very end.

After the free duet preliminary, Mexico and the U.S. were tied for 13th with a score of 86.5333. With Greece’s withdrawal, a door opened for one of them to make it into the final. It all came down to the technical event. Ultimately, the Mexicans’ fun “Fitness/80s” routine was stronger, as it received 86.6190 to the Americans’ 86.1960. Nuria Diosdado and Joana Jimenez clinched the last spot for the Olympic final, while the U.S. missed it for the very first time.

Diosdado and Jimenez were equally thrilled and emotional after performing their free duet of “Balance in the Universe” one last time. This swim was likely Diosdado’s last one on the international stage. The now three-time Olympian had in the past expressed her intentions of retiring after Tokyo.

 

Many other duets had strong performances in Tokyo. Great Britain and Israel jumped up the rankings since the 2016 Olympics. In Rio, they had finished 17th and 20th, respectively. Here, these two nations ended in 14th and 15th place. Israel‘s Eden Blecher and Shelly Bobritsky actually tied the country’s best-finish at the Olympics, dating back to 2008.

In technical duet, Lara Mechnig and Marluce Schierscher from Liechtenstein reached a new career-best score with 83.2489. Colombia‘s Estefania Alvarez and Monica Arango came a few tenths away from their personal-best in that event with a 82.0526.

Kazakhstan‘s Alexandra and Yekaterina Nemich unveiled two new routines, both created by Anastasia Ermakova. The twins had not competed in two years, and finished 16th here. Their tech routine used Japanese electronic music and scored 83.2338, while their “Winter” free choreography earned 83.8667.

Laila Ali and Hanna Heikal from Egypt should be proud of their performances in Tokyo. In free, the two reached 78.9000, the country’s highest score since 2009. In addition, their technical routine had the TV commentators gushing as it was so different and memorable. That swim was all going well until a major synchronization mistake happened in the final hybrid, which likely brought their score down a little bit. They ultimately scored 77.8625, which is still the second highest score of the quad in the event.

2016 Olympians Amie Thompson and Emily Rogers competed in the duet event for the first time for Australia. The two were only paired together last February, following the retirement of Thompson’s former duet partner. They were visibly thrilled at their scores of 75.5343 in tech and 76.3667 in free, the highest of the quad for the country.

Clarissa Johnston and Laura Strugnell from South Africa were equally excited. The two were simply happy to even be there and to finally showcase their routines. They barely held back tears after scoring above 70 in both of their routines, which was their main goal at these Olympics. Since the 2019 World Championships, the country has improved by 5.4 points in tech and 4.8 in free.

The artistic swimming competition resumes on August 6 with the technical team event, followed by the free team on August 7.

ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET

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