The lady celebrating her 29th birthday today has danced in water since the age of 9. She is so at ease in the water that she feels quite at home. “I'm used to having my feet point upward. I'm used to living upside down.” The young Muscovite has never been afraid to get wet. From her first junior competitions, Olga Brusnikina has danced, twisted, dived, jumped, extended a leg, bent an arm, tilted her head, offered a smile, a look which took her to the Olympic Games.
One Step from the Podium
In 1996, Olga Brusnikina arrived in Atlanta with her seven team-mates to pit herself against the best athletes in team synchronised swimming, which was appearing on the Olympic Games programme for the first time. Exclusively a women’s event at the Olympic Games, this discipline is deceptive. Seeing the eight naiads of each team moving so gracefully and harmoniously, the spectators seated comfortably on their seat might believe it is easy. Not so! Synchronised swimming - a mix of gymnastics, dance and swimming - requires strength and grace, flexibility and endurance, artistry and precise timing. The swimmer must know how to find her bearings and position herself in the water, upright and upside-down, according to the set choreography. She must know how to synchronise herself with the music and her partners and, above all, have perfect control of her breathing. All of this with a smile and neat hair and make-up.
For the first Olympic competition, the Russian mermaid and her team-mates finished in 4th place behind the Japanese (3rd), the Canadians (2nd) and the Americans (1st), all great synchronised swimming nations.
At the Centre of the Podium
Another time, another place. In Sydney, the young 22-year-old Olga became double Olympic champion. She started by winning a gold medal in the duet event with Maria Kisseleva. The duo did their free routine to the original rhythm of the Japanese drums, borrowing the gestures from karate. This demonstration gave them the maximum score of 10 for technical merit and artistic impression. Three days after this first victory, Olga was back with her team-mates in the Olympic Aquatics Centre pool for the team event. In a ballet of enchanting figures backed up by the music of A Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky, the Russian swimmers put on a show that bewitched all those present, the public and judges alike. It was a second gold medal for Olga.
At the Athens 2004 Games, Olga took a third gold medal in the team event, thanks to choreography that featured, in the blink of an eye, the formation of the Olympic rings and a frantic sequence of spirals, somersaults, flamenco dancing and portés.
Olga the Ambassador
Though Olga Brusnikina retired from competition after the Athens Games, she did not leave the Olympic world altogether, as, in 2007, she joined the Athletes’ Commission of the European Olympic Committees (EOC). It is certain that the triple Olympic champion will not be short of breath in her new mission as an athlete ambassador!