INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) - Pistols drawn as if mirroring regional military tensions, China's synchronised swimmers stormed to Asian Games gold in the duet competition on Saturday to the sound of a ticking bomb.
The disciplined sport with technical elements such as the "barracuda twirl" or the "porpoise twist walkout" drew an enthusiastic crowd in Games host city of Incheon.
Despite their sparkly bathing costumes and nose pegs, Sun Wenyan and Huang Xuechen struck a fierce 'Bond villain' pose and aimed imaginary revolvers before taking the plunge in the compulsory section.
Behind the electro-pop robot moves and fixed grins in the water, the music varied wildly, China's technical routine featuring samples of rifle clips being locked and ending with a "beep, beep, beep" and a bang.
Japan's Yukiko Inui and Risako Mitsui took silver, though they set pulses racing performing to pumping techno beats complete with Space Invader bleeps and whirrs.
North Korean pair Kim Jong Hui and Ri Ji Hyang received a rapturous reception from local fans but were edged out by Kazakh twins Alexandra and Yekaterina Nemich for the bronze medal.
Synchronised swimming is used in mass performances in North Korea to celebrate special occasions, such as the birthday of late leader Kim Jong Il, the protagonists packed like sardines in the pool.
But Kim and Ri fell just short on Saturday, their teammates and officials sitting in stony-faced silence as they failed to make the podium.
China's swimmers, who won all three synchro golds four years ago, plumped for a softer approach in the free routine, frolicking tenderly to the wistful strains of traditional Chinese strings in a Chinese rendition of Romeo and Juliet.
They finished with a winning score of 185.1851, comfortably clear of Japan (181.5388).
"We swotted up on the book to get into character," Huang told reporters. "We made a few mistakes but we did enough to win. It's a great feeling."