BEIJING – Asian powerhouse Japan was outperformed by minor medal rival China and finished fourth after the technical routine in the synchronized swimming team event at the Beijing Olympics on Friday.
Japan, featuring duet bronze-medalists Saho Harada and Emiko Suzuki, suffered from some slight synchronization errors to total 48.167 points at the National Aquatics Center, 0.417 behind the host nation.
Meanwhile, Russia’s decade of domination looks set to continue as it took a decisive 0.583 lead over Spain heading into Saturday’s free routine with 49.500.
“More than points, it was more important that we performed as a strong unit,” said Suzuki of her team’s routine.
“It is going to be a very tough battle in the free routine, and if we are complacent, we could find ourselves shut out of the medals,” she added.
Comebacks are rare in synchronized swimming and legendary Japanese coach Masayo Imura, now in charge of China, could be responsible for ending her homeland’s proud tradition of winning medals at every games since the sport was introduced to the Olympic program in 1984.
A spectacular opening passage of legwork was followed by an all-around graceful performance as twins Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen and their Chinese teammates collected 48.584 points to place third.
“China didn’t get the flow in the duet and I have just been wondering what I can do,” said Imura. “I just have to let them get on with it. At the end of the day, it is the judges who decide.
“China has put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I have tried my best to come up with something, but I can’t change the way the favor sways (from the judges). I have just got to get them to do their best.”
In the duet event, Japan took the bronze medal behind winner Russia and runnerup Spain, beating China for a place on the podium.