Olympics: Russia's synchronised swimming prayer is answered with fifth team gold

Team Russia competes on Aug 19, 2016.
Team Russia competes on Aug 19, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Their eight pairs of lean legs batting out of the water in the form of praying hands, Russia’s synchronised swimming team swept to their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal on Friday (Aug 19).

The victory, while expected, was particularly sweet given the high score of 99.1333 points for their free routine and because the choreography was intensely personal for team head coach Tatyana Pokrovskaya.

“Our head coach had a personal drama in the family and it coincided with the time when she had to train us. And this is what went into this routine as a main message,” said Natalia Ishchenko of their routine called The Prayer.

While coy about the family problem that inspired the routine, synchronized swimming star Ishchenko was not reserved when it came to affirming Russia’s dominance of the discipline.

“I happen to believe that this particular programme was the best ever in the history of synchronized swimming,” said Ishchenko, wearing a costume with angel wings on the back.

The judges appeared to agree, giving Russia a total team score of 196.1439 for the technical and free routines.

China won silver with total marks of 192.9841, and Japan were third with 189.2056 points.

Russia’s balletic grace in the pool, extreme precision and vivid choreographies have given the country a stranglehold on the discipline, although teams from China, Japan and Ukraine are also strong.

“We have definitely become a challenge to Russia,” said China’s Sun Wenyan at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre.

Still, Russia’s clean sweep at the Olympics – Ishchenko and partner Svetlana Romashina also won gold in the duets – had its swimmers marvelling over their latest haul of gold.

“We told each that we want to have five medals, like the Olympic rings!” laughed Romashina, who won two gold medals in Rio, two at the London 2012 Games, and one at the Beijing 2008 Games.

“My parents have a special box for them. And these medals are all medals of my parents, who took me to the swimming pool when I was six years old,” Romashina told Reuters, before walking off to be awarded her medal.