Russia's synchro team in perfect timing
Updated: Friday, 06 Jul 2012 10:10
Russia's water queens are set to continue their domination of synchronised swimming again at the London Games having swept all the gold medals in the glamorous Olympic event over the last 12 years.
Russia have won both the duet and team golds at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing games and show no signs of releasing their stranglehold on the sport famous for its glittering make-up and sequined costumes.
Russia's Anastasia Davydova is a name to look out for as the 29-year-old bids to win her fifth straight gold after winning both the team and duet titles, alongside partner Anastasia Ermakova, at Athens and Beijing.
Having posed with Ermakova for the Russian edition of popular men's magazine Maxim sporting an impressive collection of butterfly tattoos down her back, Davydova will compete this time only in the team event.
Ermakova has retired, but the next generation are already busy collecting medals through world duet champions Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina.
The pair won the technical and free routine gold medals at the 2011 world championships in Shanghai.
Ishchenko added the solo technical, solo free and free routine combination titles in a five-gold medal haul.
The 26-year-old has already claimed a total of 15 gold medals at world championships since 2005 and is sure to add to the single Olympic gold she claimed for the team event at Beijing.
The Russians won all seven synchronised swimming gold medals at last year's world championships and Davydova explained how they have set the standard in the sport which has been on the Olympic programme since 1984.
"Thorough work was done before the results appeared from 1998 onwards," she said.
"When the medals started to come it was easier to find new talents and attract them to this discipline.
"Russian synchronised swimmers increased the speed of the routines, this was imitated by the other countries and that is why the discipline has evolved to this demanding and complex level."
As they have been for the last three Olympics, two gold medals are up for grabs in London in the team and duet events.
Australia, Canada, China, hosts Great Britain, Egypt, Japan, Spain and, of course, Russia have all qualified for the eight-strong team event.
Every detail of the routine is judged and swimmers must be perfectly synchronised to score highly.
Featuring such terms as the back layout, a position where the swimmer holds herself flat on the surface, and the eggbeater, when they tread water, the sport demands lungs of steal and perfect timing.
Underwater speakers help the swimmers keep time to the music and nose clips allow them to stay underwater for longer, but the sport still requires tremendous breath control.