KAZAN, Russia (AP) Scissor-kicking to ”Swan Lake” in front of a cheering home crowd, Russia’s synchronized swimmers rallied to overtake the United States for gold in mixed duet free at the world championships.
Americans Bill May and Kristina Lum-Underwood were first after their ”Firebird” routine earned 91.4667 points Thursday night.
Performing last, the Russian duo of Aleksandr Maltsev and Darina Valitova won over the judges with their expressive ballet moves and totaled 91.7333 points to take gold.
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”At first, I could not believe that we were first,” Valitova said. ”These emotions are amazing. Maybe I will realize tomorrow what we have done. We fixed our faults and performed better than in the preliminaries.”
Italians Giorgio Minisini and Mariangela Perrupato followed the Americans but couldn’t come close and settled for bronze with 89.3333.
The result was a reversal of the mixed duet technical final, where May and partner Christina Jones beat Maltsev and Valitova by 0.2122 points for gold. Maltsev, the only man participating in synchro in Russia, was upset and said the Russians were underscored in comparison to the other teams.
”It was psychologically hard for us after second place in the technical routine,” Maltsev said. ”But many people supported us. People were telling us, `It is better to perform the way you did and get silver than become first the way the Americans did.’ And we made it.”
Russia has won six of seven synchro events so far, including Ishchenko’s win in the solo free routine Wednesday. Their only loss was to May and Jones.
In diving, North Korea won its first gold medal in the 16-year history of worlds. Kim Kuk Hyang, a 16-year-old competing in her first international competition, earned two perfect 10 scores on her final dive to win the 10-meter platform.
In the second synchro mixed gender event at worlds, the Russians strode onto the deck, with Maltsev wearing smoky eye makeup and a full suit covered with sequins that complemented Valitova’s suit. They wowed the crowd with their precision moves that have kept Russia the dominant country in synchro for decades.
May, whose bikini sported red sequins on the back, and Lum-Underwood had no scores lower than 9.0 while judged on execution, artistic impression and difficulty. But they couldn’t hold the narrow lead they owned after Tuesday’s preliminaries.
”You enjoy your swim and it’s all up to the judges,” May said. ”One day they will like something better than the other, and the other day it will be vice versa. It’s a subjective sport.”
May goes back to Las Vegas with two medals from a comeback that began late last year, when mixed gender events were added to the synchro program at worlds. Now 36, May’s regular job is performing in a Cirque du Soleil show in Sin City. Lum-Underwood performs in a show at another hotel in the gambling mecca.
Men and women first competed together in synchro at the 1998 Goodwill Games, where May was the only man on the U.S. team that earned a silver. He won 14 U.S. national titles in the late ’90s, having once been banned from international events because of his gender.
In the synchro duet free final, Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina of Russia delighted the home crowd with a victory.
Ishchenko extended a record with her 19th career gold medal at worlds, while Romashina collected her 18th gold. They scored 98.2000, including one perfect 10 for artistic impression. None of their marks was lower than 9.7, prompting the near sellout crowd to cheer and bang plastic Thunderstix together.
China’s Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan took silver at 95.9000. Lolita Ananasova and Anna Voloshyna of Ukraine earned bronze at 93.6000.
In open water swimming, Germany won the 5-kilometer team event for the second consecutive time at worlds.
The trio of Rob Muffels, Christian Reichert and Isabelle Harle finished in 55 minutes, 14.4 seconds on the Kazanka River. Germany also won the title two years ago in Barcelona, led by veteran Thomas Lurz, who has since retired.
Marcel Schouten, Ferry Weertman and Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands and Allan Do Carmo, Diogo Villarinho and Ana Cunha of Brazil tied for silver in 55:31.2.
Italy finished fourth in 55:49.4, followed by the U.S. trio of Sean Ryan, Jordan Wilimovsky and Ashley Twichell, who touched in 55:50.6.