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Synchronised swimming has always been a sport at which Russia has excelled. As events that occur every four years like the Olympic Games and biennial gatherings such as the FINA World Aquatics Championships come and go, Russian teams gradually blood new swimmers, but invariably manage to retain several members that have participated in previous triumphs. Experience, know-how, high standards and excellence can therefore be passed on from one year to the next.
In this way, the group that prevailed on 10 August at the 2012 Games featured Svetlana Romashina and Natalia Ischenko, who not only took part in Russia’s victory at Beijing 2008, but also claimed a gold medal in the duet event a few days after their team’s success in London. Similarly, Anastasia Davydova already had four Olympic synchronised swimming golds under her belt – in the duet and team competitions at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 – prior to winning another team title in 2012, while Mariya Gromova added a third gold to her CV in Stratford’s Aquatic Centre, after playing a role in the team triumphs of 2004 and 2008.
Having already produced the highest-scoring technical routine, the nine-strong Russian team made quite a splash in their free programme, astonishing the large London crowd with a fluid, faultless and spirited performance, set to music by Denis Garnizov. Their combined score of 197.030 was more than enough to see off the challenges of China (194.010) and Spain (193.12), and clinch their fourth consecutive Olympic title.
Angelika Timanina was one of several young Russians who gained their first taste of Olympic success in London. “It was great,” she exclaimed after the final. “It involved some really difficult work. We’re absolutely delighted because we trained relentlessly; it was a hugely emotional journey. But all’s well that ends well.”
She continued: “Four girls in our team were taking part in their first-ever Games. They’re very emotional! Russia has proved again that we are the ones to beat in this sport. We have fabulous coaches and a magnificent team. Of course, the other teams also produced high-quality performances, but I think that the results speak for themselves.”
Timanina, born in Yekaterinburg in April 1989, is one of the 2012 Olympic champions who, like Alexandra Patskevich and Alla Shishkina, have helped Russia keep up their winning run at the World Aquatics Championships, contributing to the successful campaigns in Shanghai (CHN) in 2011, Barcelona (ESP) in 2013 and Kazan (RUS) in 2015. Indeed, Kazan 2015 saw the Russians secure a remarkable clean sweep of all of the available gold medals in synchronised swimming, in the solo, duet and team competitions.
Whatever the make-up of the Russian team in Rio, their blend of old heads and enthusiastic youngsters will ensure that they set out as odds-on favourites to win a fifth successive Olympic gold medal.