Artistic Swimming will turn your perception upside down

Artistic Swimming will turn your perception upside down. Credit: FINA/Twitter

Ahead of Tokyo 2020, the newly-renamed Artistic Swimming is one of the events that combines grace, power, timing and strength, and so much more.

The Artistic Swimming has long been Russia’s pet event, and the question for Tokyo 2020 is whether the disruption of the Russian Olympic Team will be enough for a surprise winner to steal gold. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Since Los Angeles 1984, Artistic Swimming has been a mainstay event on the Olympic program and brings a distinctly different flavour to the other aquatic events. In a unique event, Artistic swimming combines the best of artistic gymnastics and swimming, in a team event broken down into two parts.

It is one of the few sports where the Olympic competition is only for women.

New changes

The biggest change for Tokyo 2020 is the name of the sport, as the name of the sport was changed from Synchronised Swimming to Artistic Swimming after Rio 2016.

In March 2018, it was announced that there would be a change to qualification for the event. Prior to this Olympics, there were eight teams and 24 duets that competed in each of the team and duet competitions.

At Tokyo 2020, there will be ten teams, and 22 duet combinations will compete. Each of the teams will also have a duet, and then the remaining duets are allocated by test event and continental championships.

Australia qualified after winning the Oceania Continental Championship and has both a team and a duet quota allotment.

How it works

Each competition is divided into two parts, the technical performance and the free performance. The technical routine lasts a maximum of 2:50, while the free routine lasts between three and four minutes.

Each routine is scored by a panel of judges, and the gold medal is awarded to the highest cumulative score across the two performances. Higher scores are generally awarded for more technically correct routines, and for more synchronised routines, but performance speed is also a key aspect.

Medal contenders

At Rio 2016, Russia won gold in both the team and the duet competitions, with China finishing second in both and Japan third. Russia has a strong history in the event, winning every single gold medal since Sydney 2000.

While “Russia” is not competing at Tokyo 2020, the Russian Olympic Committee has qualified both a team and a duet, and are expected to continue their streak.

Natalia Ischenko has retired, after five gold medals, including a team gold medal in 2008, and both team and duet in 2012 and 2016.  Teammate Svetlana Romashina is out for her sixth and seventh Olympic medals and will be paired with former team teammate Svetlana Kolesnichenko.

China and Japan are expected to round out the medals, with Spain the likely spoiler, having won a silver and a bronze in London in each discipline.

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Aussie Team

Amie Thompson is at her second Olympics and will be competing in both the team and duet at Tokyo 2020. A childhood swimmer and gymnast, artistic swimming was a natural fit for Thompson when she decided to give up both sports, and she has never looked back.

Emily Rogers is the other dual-Olympian in the team, along with Thompson. As an 18-year-old at Rio 2016, she was not overawed by the occasion, and has taken her performance to a new level, and was part of the team that finished 5th at the World Championships in 2019.

Kiera Gazzard was a solo performer at the 2018 World Championship, at just 17 years of age. Gazzard missed the 2019 World Championships, an Olympic qualifying event due to concussion, but was ultimately selected to the Olympic team.

Rayna Buckle was a late addition to the eight athlete team, replacing the retiring Hannah Cross.

NameEvent/sOlympic Games
Rayna BuckleTeamDebut
Hannah BurkhillTeamDebut
Kiera GazzardTeamDebut
Alessandra HoTeamDebut
Kirsten KinashTeamDebut
Rachel PresserTeamDebut
Emily RogersTeam & DuetRio 2016
Amie ThompsonTeam & DuetRio 2016

The Artistic Swimming commences with the Free Routine Preliminary for the Duet on 2 August, and concludes with the Free Routine for the Team on 7 August.  

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