08/07/2012 11:36 EDT | Updated 10/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Ishchenko, Romashina extend domination of synchro swimming with duet gold; Canada 4th

LONDON - The gold was never in doubt. Russia had it all the way.

The only drama in synchronized swimming was for silver.

Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina had the crowd cheering before they even dived in the pool, extending Russia's monopoly of the sport with a dominating duet win on Tuesday.

The silver went to Spain, which leaped over China in a sport where the hierarchy is firmly established going into major competitions.

Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., and Elise Marcotte of Quebec City finished fourth.

Wearing sparkly suits adorned with cartoonish characters that were supposed to resemble haunted puppets, the Russian pair glided across the deck like ballerinas before collapsing into a split — and that was just the warmup for a routine that combined style with athleticism. They finished with 197.100 points, improving on their marks from free preliminaries to easily outdistance the other 11 duos that made it through to the final.

The Russians started off with a couple of flips accompanied by dramatic music from the 1970s Italian horror film "Suspiria," played to the crowd with the wonderment of children after switching to a bouncier tune from another movie, "Amelie," then finished up with a series of furious leg kicks before one last flip set to the soundtrack of the Tim Burton film "Sleepy Hollow."

They finished with their right arms dangling, like puppets, while a sea of Russians flags fluttered in the stands.

"We knew Spain and China are our main competitors, but we also knew they will be mostly competing against each other," said Russia coach Tatiana Danchenko. "If I like it and the girls are pleased with it, then judges will like it too. I am their most demanding judge."

Once the Russians were done, the gold medal all locked up, Spain's Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes followed with a lively, tango-inspired routine that had the crowd at the Olympic Aquatics Centre clapping along nearly the entire way.

They nervously awaited their marks to see if they had done enough in 3 1/2 minutes to improve on their third-place showing in the prelims. They had, finishing with a score of 192.900 to edge out China for silver. Carbonell and Fuentes were confused at first about where they had finished, looking toward their coaches with puzzled expressions.

That turned into a teary hug when they realized they had slipped past Huang Xuechen and Liu Ou, who settled for the bronze in 192.870.

Wearing suits emblazoned with a dragon across the front, Huang and Liu improved on their score from the prelims with an impressive display of legwork, but the duo's heralded stamina — they've been known to train for 10 hours straight — wasn't enough to hold off Spain's stylish manoeuvrs.

Still, it was China's first medal in duet.

"We got huge improvement compared to what we got at the previous Games, you can see this from the scores," Liu said. "We got everything we could from the training experience."

She knows that catching Russia is another matter.

"We don't consider Russia a challenger because we cannot compete with them," Liu said. "Our only challenger is Spain."


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