Russia still rules in renamed sport of artistic swimming


HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: One of the biggest issues in 2016 entailed getting rid of green-tinged water in one of the pools at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center. Local officials eventually drained the pool and transferred nearly 1 million gallons of clear water from a nearby practice pool in time for the start of what was then known as synchronized swimming. Once the competition started, it was the usual golden procession for Russia, with Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina winning the duet and also taking part in the team title. It marked the fifth consecutive Olympics that Russia swept gold in the sport.

WHAT’S NEW: Aquatics’ governing body FINA changed the name of the sport from synchronized swimming to artistic swimming in 2017. The move was met with criticism from athletes who decried the new name as demeaning and, while many national federations quickly assumed the new name, USA Synchro didn’t rebrand to USA Artistic Swimming until March of last year.

“The rebrand globally and now in the United States is rooted in a long-held misunderstanding of the sport,” the American federation said. “The term ‘synchronized swimming’ has always had a disconnect with casual fans in that ‘synchronized’ as used here refers to the swimmers’ ability to time their moves to the music, not to each other. Without that understanding, ‘synchronized’ also causes confusion for those watching solo competitors, which is a discipline at the world championship level.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Russia and Russia. Or, actually, ROC and ROC (for Russian Olympic Committee), as Russia will be called at these games amid a doping suspension. Expect ROC to take a sixth consecutive sweep of the medals, with Romashina back from maternity leave to aim for a third straight gold in the duet. With Ishchenko having retired, Romashina should partner with Svetlana Kolesnichenko, having won the 2019 world title together. Romashina needs only one more Olympic title to become the most successful athlete in the sport’s history — but (including the team event) she’ll likely get two more golds to boost her Olympic haul to seven medals — all gold.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Romashina and Kolesnichenko.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT(S): Aug. 4: Duet free routine final; Aug. 7: Team free routine.

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