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Competing in the pairs with Anastasia Yermakova and in the eight-member team event, Russia’s Anastasia Davydova dominated the global synchronised swimming scene for more than a decade, winning a record five Olympic titles and 13 world championship gold medals.
After joining the prestigious Russian synchronised swimming academy at the age of six, Anastasia Davydova struck up a formidable partnership at junior level with Anastasia Yermakova. The pair won their first major senior medal in 2001, landing the silver at the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka (JPN). It was the start of something very special. Displaying outstanding technique in their innovative routines, Davydova and Yermakova took their sport to a new level and went unbeaten through two Olympic cycles, winning the pairs and teams titles at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and amassing seven world titles in the same period.
The duo have a remarkable amount in common. Born just two months apart in Moscow, they trained at the same club, studied economics together in the Russian capital and have similar very builds, though Davydova’s distinctive butterfly tattoos set her apart from her partner. Discussing their relationship in 2008, Yermakova said: “We’ve been training and competing together for ten years. We never argue and we only have to look at each other to know what the other is thinking.” When Yermakova decided to take a break from competition after the Beijing Olympics, Davydova pressed on, forging a new partnership with Natalia Ishchenko and remaining a linchpin of the Russian eight. She added another five world championship titles to her already formidable haul at Rome 2009 and Shanghai 2011 before following Yermakova’s lead and taking time out from her sporting career.
Davydova returned to the Russia team at the London Games in 2012, where she won a fifth Olympic gold medal, an outright record for her sport. “Those Games were a very moving
experience for me,” she recalls. “It’s not every day that you win a fifth gold medal. When I went to London I knew that it would give me a lot of pride to go and win again, and that’s how it turned out.” She retired shortly after the London Games and was promptly appointed national coach, a role in which she tirelessly promotes her sport.
Davydova was presented with the Women and Sport Award for Europe by the IOC on 9 December 2014. In making the award, the IOC delivered the following eulogy: “A role model for young women and girls, Anastasia Davydova has devoted more than 23 years of her life to synchronised swimming, a discipline in which she won many titles and awards, including five Olympic gold medals.”The first female Vice-President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Chair of the Council for Assistance to the ROC, Davydova also now works actively with sports schools to teach children the Olympic values and highlight the importance of physical activity in everyday life. She runs regular workshops on synchronised swimming all over Russia, tutoring the next generation of female athletes. On top of that she has spearheaded an innovative project for a synchronised swimming school to develop promising young female athletes, and her initiatives have played a large part in ensuring many former synchronised swimmers have been given the chance to fulfil their potential within the Russian Olympic Committee and the Synchronised Swimming Federation