COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The stage is set, and the artistic swimming duet competition will be taking place from August 2-4 at the Tokyo Aquatic Center. The field will feature 22 total duets that earned a bid to Tokyo, with 12 earning a place in the free final on August 4th. The athlete pairs will represent the countries of Australia, Austria, Belarus, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Greece, Kazakhstan, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russian Olympic Committee, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine and the USA.
Since securing their spot at the FINA Artistic Swimming Qualification Tournament in Barcelona in June, the pair of Anita Alvarez and Lindi Schroeder have completely shifted their focus. You can read more about their preparation HERE.
“We had to fix the health of Anita, that was a big priority and now we are ready to swim our best performances! I think what makes this duet special is we have very good choreography. The free duet is one to be remembered, the music is great, and the moves are very synchronized to the music. We did a mix between artistry and competitiveness to show off their talent. They just need to turn their fight mode on and let’s go,” Andrea Fuentes, head coach of the senior national team, said.
Statistics and predictions are relatively hard to manage in this unique year. Since the 2016 Olympic Games, there have been very few especially in the past two years. Russia is primed to win another gold, as they’ve been able to secure the top place on the podium in the duet category since the USA last dominated the category in 1992.
The USA duet ended in fifth place at the qualification tournament in June behind the Netherlands, France, Belarus and Austria. Three of the four duets ahead of them are made up of siblings. Austria drastically separated themselves form the competition, finishing 6.1460 ahead of second-place Belarus. USA, with a total score of 174.6084, finished 2.0508 behind Belarus and sat comfortably ahead of Israel by nearly three points. This score for the stars and stripes was achieved with the help of alternate athlete Ruby who stepped in for Alvarez in the free final and performed her first full run-through of the routine with high stakes. Between and Schroeder, the two made up the youngest pair in the top-10. If the qualification tournament score for USA was used in the Rio 2016 rankings, the duet would finish in eighth place.
Still, viewers should expect to see higher scores from USA in Tokyo than their performances in Barcelona, and the two virtual World Series stops, as they will be at full strength and have finally had the time to dedicate exclusively to improving their cleanliness, precision and developing new choreography.
Alvarez and Schroeder have been competing in the duet category together since the 2019. Before that, Lindi served as the duet alternate for a year. This will be Alvarez's second Olympics. As a pair, Anita and Lindi have already outpaced the 2016 Olympic duet’s score by almost five points in tech, just over two points in free and nearly seven points total.
The sport of artistic swimming is continuously evolving, getting more difficult every year as athletes push the boundaries. With the extra year to train and lack of visibility in competitions, the field is stacked with talent and unknown variables. With just the top-12 duets after prelims moving onto finals, a final appearance in and of itself is a tremendous achievement.
USA has qualified a duet in every Olympic Games the event was included. Since the scoring system was adjusted, two Olympics have passed. In 2012, the duet of Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva finished 11thwith a score of 175.670. In 2016, Alvarez and Koroleva finished 9th with a score of 167.6488.
The last duet pair to win gold was made up of twins Karen Josephson and Sarah Josephson in 1992. They scored a silver medal in 1986 and edged Canada for first in Barcelona in 1992. USA representatives were the first to ever win the category, with Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie securing their gold medal finish in 1984 when artistic swimming first graced the Olympic program.
The last medalists in the event representing America competed in Athens in 2004. Our most senior Olympian in USA Artistic Swimming history, Anna Kozlova, paired with Alison Bartosik to take third and secure a bronze medal.
1996: duet not included in Olympic program
HOW TO WATCH:
The artistic swimming competition will debut on Monday, August 2nd. The free duet prelim will go first, beginning at 3:30 a.m. PT. It will be followed by the tech category at the same time on August 3rd. Those who earn a place in finals will compete on Wednesday, August 4th, also at 3:30 a.m. PT. Streaming links on NBC are available HERE.
“What I really want for them in Tokyo is to leave everything in the pool. I want them to show the real fighters they are inside. They are both extremely talented, in fact I wish I had their bodies when I was a swimmer, so I want to push them to be able to synchronize and swim their hearts out. We significantly improved the choreography to make it more competitive and they have a lot of corrections to focus on from this last month. I know they are capable of managing all this new information and will fight for their best swim ever,” Andrea said.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.