By Sportswriter Tan Jingjing
LONDON, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- China claimed two Olympic medals in synchronized swimming at London Olympics, underlining their emerging strength in the event which has been dominated by Russia.
Chinese synchronized swimmers grabbed a bronze in the deut event on Tuesday, and resisted challenges from Spain to add a silver in the team event on Friday. It has been the best ever achievement for Chinese synchro swimming at the Olympic Games.
In Friday afternoon's free routine, China, who was second after Thursday's technical routine ahead of Spain, consolidated their advantage with powerful lifts and jumps, scoring 97.010 points for an overall 194.010.
They edged over Spain with 0.09 point to take China's first silver Olympic medal in synchronized swimming.
Chinese swimmers, who wore sequin-spangled swimsuits with waterproof makeup, nose clip and gelatine, enthralled the audience with a performance of unmatched precision and power with a music piece of "butterfly".
"We were very confident with our techniques, and we succeeded in executing every difficult move and demonstrating graceful physical beauty in our performance today," said Jiang Wenwen, who was a member of the bronze medalists at Beijing Games.
"We picked the theme of 'butterfly' because it not only shows the art of oriental charms, but also caters for the tastes of judges from western countries," said Liu Ou, who also took a bronze in the duet event.
"Everyone knows about the butterfly effect, it starts with small element but turned into global impact. We hope to show each step of our progress to all and affect their impressions towards China and Chinese synchro swimming," she added.
China didn't give chances for another overturn by Spain in team event. Three days ago, the Chinese duo Liu Ou and Huang Xuechen, 0.1 point ahead of Spanish duo after technical routine, were dropped from second to third place by Spanish rivals in the free routine, and settled for a bronze with 0.03 point behind.
Russia remains invincible in synchro swimming as their swimmers swept both duet and team titles of London Games.
One silver and one bronze made China and Spain the second winners in synchro swimming after Russia. It also marks the historical record of Chinese synchro swimmers at Olympic Games. The deut bronze was the first Olympic medal for China in the event.
Before London Games, China has only got a bronze medal in team event in Beijing Games, where Chinese twins Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen were expected for a medal in the deut competition, but failed by an error towards the end and only finished fourth.
Chinese swimmers planted sweet kisses on the face of their Japanese coach Masayo Imura after winning the silver on Friday, thumbs up for the breakthrough she had brought to China's synchronized swimming.
"We are very grateful to our coach. We won't be here today without her. She has brought huge differences to the Chinese team," Liu Ou said.
Imura praised the excellent performances of her athletes, adding she was so glad to contribute to a historical record of Chinese synchronized swimming.
"They could have performed a bit higher in the lifts but they did their best. There are still rooms they can improve in the future," she added.
Synchronized swimming is a subjectively judged sport, and it takes time to win recognition. In the last 28 years as an Olympic sport, worldwide, it has been dominated by Russia, and in Asia, Japan has frequently been the No. 1.
This time in London, China, for the first time, outshone Japan in synchro swimming. Japan failed to achieve a medal in synchro swimming for the first time since the sport was introduced in 1984. They were fifth both in the deut and team competitions.
Synchronized swimming is far from being a popular sport in China, but the swimmers took on demanding training program to better their performance.
They swim an average of 4,000 meters every day and have to master acrobatic stunts, ballet movement while work hard to exercise great breath control under water. Sometimes they have to eat three times more than the normal dietary portions to increase strength and stability in water.
The rigorous training benefited the Chinese synchronized swimmers, and they embarked on a faster lane when Imura came to their assistance at the end of 2006.
The 62-year-old Imura has tutored Japan's synchro swimming team since 1978, helping her swimmers win eight Olympic medals over the past 30 years.
Imura came under the stereotyped criticism for helping foreign athletes, but she remains focused on helping the Chinese swimmers.
"Coaching the Chinese swimmers was nothing but my job, and I'm glad my goal was realized," she said. Imura's contract with China will terminate after the Olympics, and it has not been confirmed whether the contract will be extended.
"China finally built its status within the top three in synchronized swimming with its performances in London," she said, adding it would be a great boost to the development of China's synchronized swimming career.