• Kyodo

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Japanese synchronized swimmers could not break past the Russians once again as they took the silver medal behind their archrivals in the team competition after the free routine finals Friday at the Athens Olympics.

Japan, which started half a point behind Russia after Thursday’s technical routine, earned a two-day total of 98.501 points, a full point behind the Russians who swept the duet and team gold in a repeat of the 2000 Sydney Games.

The United States got the bronze with a 97.418 total, which is a combination of the score of the free routine and the technical routine. The three countries finished in the same order in the duet Wednesday.

The silver was the third straight team medal for Japan, which took the bronze at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and silver in Sydney.

“The Japanese swimmers did their best. I only got to watch the Russians perform at practice, but I thought they were better than in Sydney,” said Japan coach Masayo Imura.

“I was able to give my all so I felt great swimming today,” said Miho Takeda, who won the duet silver medal with Miya Tachibana in Athens. “We’re all pleased with the way we performed.”

The eight-woman Japanese team of Tachibana, Takeda, Michiyo Fujimaru, Saho Harada, Kanako Kitao, Emiko Suzuki, Juri Tatsumi and Yoko Yoneda were the third up among eight teams to compete at the Olympic Aquatic Centre.

Using their arms to imitate the sharp movement of swords, they performed their “Samurai in Athens” routine to the sound of taiko drums and swords clashing and took the lead with Russia and the United States among the squads left to perform.

The Russian team of Elena Azarova, Olga Brusnikina, Anastasia Davydova, Anastasia Ermakova, Elvira Khasyanova, Maria Kiseleva, Olga Novokshchenova and Anna Shorina, next to perform after Japan, had to restart their routine after their music stopped seconds into their program.

But the reigning world champions showed no signs of anxiety as they mixed swimming, acrobatics and ballet in their lively and rhythmic piece titled “Carnival” and collected perfect 10.0s for artistic impression from all five judges to defend their title.

Japan secured the silver with three countries still to carry out their final routines after the United States, the only team with a chance to overtake Japan at that point, came up short.

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