Russia set themselves apart from the competition yet again at the London Olympics, winning the team synchronized swimming for their fourth consecutive gold medal in the event.
The Russians showed why they have been the sport’s dominant power since the 1998 world championships. Their height, speed, legwork and synchronization in the pool are far superior to anything the rest of the world is doing.
And the other countries know it.
“We are still some distance from Russia. They will be our targets in the future for a long while,” China coach Zhang Xiaolei said. “Maybe gold will be our long-term aim. Russia is our motivation.”
The Russians earned 98.930 points for a team free routine on Friday that featured swimmers doing acrobatic flips and pirouetting like ballerinas above the water. Having already won the team technical competition, they totaled 197.030.
“I am very happy that we managed to get the result with the girls and that we carried on the tradition of synchronized swimming,” Anastasia Davydova said through a translator.
The team of Davydova, Maria Gromova, Natalia Ishchenko, Elvira Khasyanova, Alexandra Patskevich, Svetlana Romashina, Anzhelika Timanina and Alla Shishkina swam in black, red and gold suits featuring a spider-web design on the back.
“The theme was a lost world like a big spider’s net,” Patskevich said. “We wanted people to get the goose bumps.”
The Russians swam, flipped and kicked their way through the songs War and Step by Denis Garnizov.
Davydova became the most successful swimmer in the sport with her fifth gold medal, including three in the team event. Her teammates Gromova and Khasyanova also earned their third gold medals in the team competition.
“This was the hardest medal for me to win and the happiest,” Davydova said. “I finish my career on a peak.”
She plans to retire and get started on developing the next generation of young Russian swimmers as a coach, beginning next month.
“We train children from three years of age at school,” Davydova said in explaining her country’s success in a sport that uses nose clips, hair gel and dramatic makeup. “By 15 they are already ahead and competing.”
Ishchenko and Romashina claimed their second gold medals of these games after winning the synchro duet event.
With Russia a virtual lock for gold, it was left to China and Spain to swim for silver. The US did not qualify for the team event.
China took second with 194.010, edging Spain by 0.89 points. The Spanish settled for the bronze at 193.120, four years after winning silver in Beijing.
Wearing hot pink, purple and white suits, the Chinese marched in lockstep onto the deck. With their dramatic Butterfly music under way, they flipped one swimmer in the air.
Moments later, another swimmer was flipped horizontally and she rolled multiple times like a log before hitting the water. Two swimmers flipped in opposite directions, drawing cheers and a score of 97.010 for their free routine.
China earlier won the bronze in synchro duet.
The Spanish wore silver-sequined suits and matching caps resembling fish scales that shimmered in and out of the water.
Spain was so eager to win a medal that all of the team’s swimmers cut their hair above their shoulders in a good-luck ritual a night earlier.
Spain coach Elisabet Fernandez said it took an hour for the nine swimmers to get into their suits and special glue was used to adhere the suits and caps to their skin.