Swimming to African beats from the soundtracks of “Cry Freedom,” “Blood Diamonds” and “Hotel Rwanda,” the U.S. racked up 166.2664 total points to take gold in the team competition at the Synchro America Open in East Meadow, New York, on Friday. Team USA finished just over six-tenths of a point ahead of Canada in the two-session event.
Despite only training together for a couple of months, the 11-member squad, led by 2016 U.S. Olympian Anita Alvarez, managed to stay in synch for most of the competition.
“These are brand-new routines for both of our programs, for eight people who are swimming together for the first time. It all needs to be adapted and standardized,” U.S. coach Jenny Ekhilevsky said. “So we've certainly had our challenges. But they did a great job from where we came from.”
Earlier in the day, Bill May, a gold and silver medalist from the 2015 FINA World Championships, vaulted to first in the technical portion of the mixed duet competition with Kanako Kiato Spendlove, who was a silver medalist for Japan at the Olympic Games Athens 2004.
The pair’s routine lit up the scoreboard with a mark of 86.3349, more than seven points ahead of the next best duo.
The Synchro America Open, which features solo, duet and team routines, is part of the inaugural FINA Synchronized Swimming World Series and the only international competition in the sport held in the United States. More than 130 elite synchronized swimmers from 13 countries are competing in the event, which runs through Saturday and is a precursor to next month’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.