Russia triumphed in synchronized swimming at the London Olympics. Coached by irreplaceable Tatyana Pokrovskaya, the national team won a fourth Olympic title in a row.
The girls had no equals in the technical routine, performed to the accompaniment of Russian dance music, and in the free routine entitled The Lost World. The judges admired the impeccable leg technique and high lifts, as well as choreography and artistry. Spain impressed the audience, too, but the panel of judges placed China second.
The most experienced athlete in the group, Anastasiya Davydova, added a fifth Olympic gold to her collection, and Natalya Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina are now triple champions, who are also taking home the gold in the duets. Elvira Khasyanova and Maria Gromova – both participants in three Olympic Games - are the holders of three top titles, too. And yet, at the medal ceremony some girls had tears in their eyes. A Chinese correspondent standing next to me whispered a question, “Aren’t they used to it?”
Having listened to and sung the Russian anthem the girls surrounded their coach Tatyana Pokrovskaya and threw her in the water.
“This is our main tradition. True, all coaches try to resist at first, but in the end everybody is happy, because violating traditions is very wrong,” Svetlana Romashina told Itar-Tass. “Words can’t speak my feelings. I am a triple Olympic champion! And I am still so young! Three gold medals are a rather heavy load, but it is also a very pleasant one to carry.”
Romashina said the team free routine had been conceived as a series of illustrations showing an uninhabited island with exotic living creatures – dinosaurs, spiders, etc.”
Anastasiya Davydova, in whose lifetime this is a fourth Olympics, confessed that she was about to embark on a coach’s career. “The decision I would end my career as an athlete was made before the opening of the London Olympics,” Davydova said. “I knew that it was going to be the last Olympics for me, and the hardest as well. I am taking the job of a coach. I am very glad I staged a comeback after a year-long pause. Now I believe this is the right time for me to leave. I have done enough for synchronized swimming. I have squeezed my body to the last drop. I will start coaching as of September. And I am happy we have managed to continue the traditions of Russian synchronized swimming.”
“I really do not know what words to find to explain how hard it was for me,” Davydova said. “I am ending my career at the highest point. Each day I had to fight with my own self. Attaining victory over oneself – this is what the gold medal is all about. Success is a result of hard work.” She added that of what was once the Anastasiya Davydova– Anastasiya Yermakova duet only she was left, because her friend and partner had been plagued by injuries. Yermakova works in Italy as a coach and says she likes the job.
Davydova, now a five times Olympic champion, is determined to do coaching only in Russia.
“I cannot see a future for myself elsewhere,” she said. “I have some disciples already. At first, I shall try myself with the junior team, and then – as the Lord will dispose. True, they will not be ready to perform in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but I hope for a medal for them at the next Olympics. I believe that I have been demanding to myself as an athlete, and I shall be very demanding towards others. My coaching style will certainly not be soft. Anastasiya remarked that she was in the habit of being the leader in life and that she put pressures on her teammates more than once, but they managed to rise to her expectations.
“To a very great degree today’s result is an achievement of the coaches,” Alexandra Patskevich said. “We have very strong children’s and youth schools. At the age of 13-15 we start winning all international competitions. Hence the result.”
“I cannot say that I have always dreamed of creating some image in the swimming pool,” Patskevich said. “Over the thirteen years in the national team I had to act various characters like swans and sharks. Teams are many, each uses different images, and it is ever more difficult to think up something new. We keep asking ourselves: what shall we show next time? There are lots of things we would like to show, but how that can be done in the water?”
“Some of our athletes are ending their careers,” Patskevich said in conclusion. “For a while we shall just take our time. I most certainly will. I just do not know when a new season will begin.”
Natalya Ishchenko said she knew her mother and sister were watching her from the stands keeping fingers crossed.
“We managed, victory is ours, and this is the main thing,” said the chief coach, Tatyana Pokrovskaya. “They threw me in the water, but I do not mind standing here wet. We have the gold.”
“Back last April the Chinese appeared at the Olympic selection and started building up pressures. Nobody had seen them, they did not participate in the selection. Nobody had seen their training sessions. They placed second. But haven’t you seen the Spanish program? I liked it more.”
Pokrovskaya said her trainees had had very little time to work on their routines. They started in May, after the Olympic selection, so the training was very intensive. Asked who of the athletes were quitting Pokrovskaya said that time was ripe for participants in several Olympics to get married. She believes, though, that Romashina and Ishchenko will stay – it is their second Olympics and “two is too few, as you may have noticed.”
LONDON, August 11