RIO DE JANEIRO – Displaying poise, passion and precision, Japan’s Yukiko Inui and Risako Mitsui captured the synchronized swimming duet bronze medal, while Russia underlined its dominance of the event with victory in the final at the Rio Olympics on Tuesday.
Inui and Mitsui gave Japan its first medal in the sport since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and provided a timely present for coach Masayo Imura on her 66th birthday, scoring 94.9333 points in the free routine for a combined total of 188.0547.
“This is what I have been doing synchro for (to win a medal) and I am glad I was able to realize that,” said Inui, who alongside Chisa Kobayashi placed a disappointing fifth in the duet at the London Games four years ago.
“There were times when I didn’t really know what my objective was. I am glad I kept going,” she said.
Mitsui said: “I’m so glad we got a medal. Every day has been like hell until this point. I have been rewarded for getting through those days.”
Russia’s defending champions Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina took gold, and China’s Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan won the silver.
Ishchenko and Romashina were top after the technical routine and free preliminary, and they successfully defended their title with another dominant display at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre, scoring 98.5333 points for a 194.9910 total.
Russia’s gold medal streak in the duet and team events stretches back to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Huang, a London bronze medalist, and Sun scored 192.3688.
“We are really happy about our performance. We achieved our goal,” said Ishchenko. “We haven’t watched the performance yet but our coach told us it was great. The points were also higher than our preliminary competition, so we are really happy right now.”
Romashina said, “Every medal is a special one and this medal is also really valuable to me because it took a long time to get it.
“The last four years were really hard for us, especially the last four months because nobody knew if Russia would be able to compete in the Olympic Games so we are very happy to be here and to win gold.”
The duets with the top 12 combined scores from the preliminary and technical rounds advanced to the final. The free routine was performed again in the final with the points being added to the technical routine. The score in the free preliminary was not carried into the final.
Inui and Mitsui scored Japan’s first Olympic medal in the event since Emiko Suzuki and Saho Harada won bronze in Beijing.
Japan had won medals in all synchronized swimming events since the sport was introduced to the Olympic program in 1984, until that proud record came to an end in London.
But the return in 2014 of coach Masayo Imura, who was in charge of China’s team for both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, has helped revive Japan’s fortunes and put them back on the podium.
“I wanted to get Japan back among the medals again and first off I have been of assistance in the duet,” said Imura. “Today the girls really nailed their performance. This is a birthday I will never forget.”