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The Japanese drew on ancient traditions and the Brazilians burst forward with an edgy rock-and-roll routine, but no synchronised swimming team came even close to preventing Russia from taking the lead in technical routines on Thursday.
Notching a score of 97.0106 out of a possible 100, Russia again showed off the graceful ballet-like moves, athletic prowess, and ever more creative routines that have earned them every team medal since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
With Russia’s other Rio choreographies centred around mermaids or gypsies, Thursday’s team fast-paced, vibrant team performance was based on the idea of a big, bustling city.
“It’s like the rhythm of a megalopolis,” said Alla Shishkina after completing the routine at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre.
“Temporary and very high rhythm.”
Russia showed their dominance was far from temporary, however, taking the lead with a strong score while China came in second with 95.6174 points and Japan third with 93.7723.
Japan’s team had music specially written for the first South American Games, where their routine was seeped in Japanese culture. “We wanted to show our traditional performance,” said Risako Mitsui, wearing a bright swimsuit and vivid eye makeup.
Team medals will be awarded after Friday’s free routine competition.
Brazil’s team came in a disappointing sixth out of eight with 84.7985 points on Thursday, though they easily won over the overwhelmingly Brazilian crowd.
Donning dark lipstick and motorbiker-inspired swimsuits, the home team had the audience cheering every time their eight pairs of legs flew out of the water in the Rio sunshine.
“We want to make a rock-and-roll routine to be more aggressive, because the other three routines are Brazilian,” said Beatriz Feres, speaking next to her twin Branca, who also competes on the team.
“We wanted to do something different, something unexpected for our people and the world.”
Russian synchronised swimming duet Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina’s earned gold in Tuesday’s free routine, where they channelled mermaids, wearing scale-inspired swimsuits and batting their legs out of the water, feet sticking out to look like tails.
The pair declined to spill the beans on the key to Russia’s winning streak, however, joking: “It’s our secret!”