Russian synchronized swimmers hope to continue Olympic dominance

Total dominance in any given sport is a rare thing today, but Russia has done just that in synchronized swimming. Since 2000, Russians have had a stranglehold on the Olympic gold. RT caught up with the hopefuls on the eve of the London Games.

Russia’s synchronized swimming team and duet have won all six possible gold medals in the last three Olympic Games. In addition, they have also contributed heavily to Russia’s overall gold medal tally in both the World and European Aquatics Championships.

But whether or not their challengers have dropped their standards in recent times, it’s clear the current batch of Russian athletes are training hard.

“We really work a lot. Everyone at the training facility knows this. They’re all shocked that we train daily for ten hours. Honing and polishing the routine is very difficult, and to remember it is even harder,” says Russia’s duet coach Tatyana Danchenko.

Although it was removed in favor of the team competition for the 1996 Games, the duet is now considered to be the most prestigious event of all. Russia’s Anastasia Davydova and Anastasiya Ermakova were the country’s star pair at the last two Olympics.

But a couple of new starlets, in the form of Natasha Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina, have since emerged to shine at recent World and European Championships.

“It’s much tougher physically this time round, because in the last Olympics I only participated in the team competition and now I will also be performing in the duet competition. It’s a more individual event and is of course very prestigious, and because of that it’s more than double the work,” Ishchenko told RT.

The discipline requires great strength, endurance, flexibility and of course precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater. So training is tough, constant and lengthy – the girls can train for literally half a day in order to ensure they maintain the proper level of fitness.

“Without a doubt the most difficult aspect is dealing with the physical demands – we’ve got two duet rehearsals in the morning and two team rehearsals in the evening, so it’s quite difficult to keep yourself in shape. Mentally it’s also tough. Yes, the Olympics are the goal, but you try not to think about that, because it just becomes that much harder,” says Romashina.

Ishchenko and Romashina, of course, spend a lot of time in the water, but it’s surprising that they spend an equal amount of their ten-hour training sessions in the gym, practicing their choreography.

It’s a long and at times lonely task with a rigid regime, leaving little room for anything else, let alone free time, but Ishchenko insists there is enough time for friends and family.

“We have one free day a week, so we try to get everything done then, like going to the movies and meeting with friends. I have a husband at home, so I like spending time with him of course, but this is part of our work and you just have to get used to it,” she says.

There wouldn’t be much of a duet if the two girls didn’t get along so well with each other.  

“Natasha and I get along very well, even beyond the training facility. But it can be difficult, especially when we come back after our day off and have to resume training, when all we want to do is share the latest gossip,” Svetlana says.

Ishchenko and Romashina are filling big shoes, and expectations will be sky-high when they dive into the Olympic pool in London in August. But it seems they're already well prepared to carry the torch in Russia’s bid to win gold for a fourth consecutive time.

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