SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING Same old story with Russia, Japan leading
XATHENS, Greece -- They never did this in ancient Greece.
A sport that might seem better suited for a Las Vegas showroom took the Olympic stage Monday night, with Russia and Japan holding down their customary 1-2 spots and the United States in third after the duet technical routine of synchronized swimming.
Despite all the wisecracks about the validity of their sport, synchronized swimmers are truly amazing athletes -- able to twist, spin and contort in the water for 21/2 minutes, much of it spent with their heads underwater, as they perform choreographed moves to the music.
The Russian duo has taken synchro to the extreme with the same first names. World champions Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova swam to the theme from "The Matrix" and scored 49.417 points.
Russia won both the duet -- with different swimmers -- and team events at the 2000 Sydney Games, beating out the Japanese both times.
As expected, the Japanese team of Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda claimed the second spot with 49.000 points in the technical routine, which will be combined with scores from tonight's free routine to determine the 12 teams competing in the final Wednesday.
The United States' duo, Anna Kozlova and Alison Bartosik, was in third with 48.334. They swam to a clarinet and percussion piece with a bit of Indian flair.
"This is the best we've done in technicals since we've been together," Kozlova said. "I'm excited."
The Americans are hoping to take a step toward reclaiming their dominance in the sport after being shut out in Sydney -- the first time they failed to win an Olympic medal since synchronized swimming was added to the program in 1984.
"I thought they did very well," U.S. coach Chris Carver said. "They had one little flaw."
But she acknowledged that the Americans will have a hard time cracking the top two in a sport that is entirely in the eyes of the judges.