Natalia Ishchenko admitted she and Svetlana Romashina had felt under pressure to win the duets synchronized swimming gold on Tuesday to maintain Russia’s legacy with a fourth consecutive Olympic title.
Having claimed first position in the technical routine at the Aquatic Centre on Sunday, Ishchenko and Romashina scored 98.900 points in Tuesday’s free routine to earn 197.100 points in total.
Spain’s Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes took second with a total of 192.900 to snatch silver by just 0.030 from China’s Huang Xuechen and Liu Ou, who came into the final just behind the Russians.
Russia have won both the team and duets titles at every Olympics since duets returned to the Games program in Sydney 2000 after taking a break for Atlanta 1996.
“Of course we were under pressure, we tried not to read any newspapers or listen to the news on the radio. We tried to forget about everything, because people seemed to have already hung medals around our necks,” Ischenko said. “It was scary, we just focused on doing our best and getting the right result.”
While Russia finished nearly five points clear of the field, silver came as a shock to the Spanish, who hugged each other when their score was finally shown on the Aquatic Centre screen.
“We were tired, we were emotional, we couldn’t see the screen. When we heard people scream and saw our coaches hug, we knew we had the silver,” Spain’s Carbonell said after their 96.900 free routine score proved to be just enough.
The Russians’ perfectly choreographed routine leaned to the dark side with music from the 1977 horror film Suspiria and Tim Burton-directed Sleepy Hollow, which Ischenko revealed took a year of preparation.
Russia have held an iron grip on the duets crown since Olga Brusnikina and Maria Kisseleva won gold in Sydney, then compatriots Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova took the title in both Athens and Beijing.
Davydova is bidding to win the fifth Olympic gold of her career in today’s team event, while Ermakova has retired, but in their absence Ishchenko and Romashina, who both won team gold in Beijing, have stepped up.
The duo also won the world duets title in both Rome in 2009 and last year in Shanghai, where Russia won all seven golds available.