Russia, Ukraine on the roll, happy end for the Brits
Russia finished the synchro events with eight gold medals. They earned them in as many starts, the remaining one went to the Ukrainians in the team free event which the Russians skipped this time. Ukraine had a fine evening in the diving pool as well with Iuliia Prokopchuk clinching the title in the women’s platform. A thrilling competition closed the day and at the end the pool erupted as Jack Laugher and Christopher Mears captured a gold for Great Britain.
Two more golds for Russia in the morning: the ruling synchro nation swept all the titles in the events they entered. In the duet technical final Svetlana Romashina and Natalia Ishchenko enchanted the fans once more – and maybe for the last time at the Europeans as Ishchenko might retire after the Olympics. With a dozen titles under her belt and 34 golds in Natalia’s treasury from the three major international events, the London Aquatics Centre bade farewell to the most decorated synchro swimmer of all time.
In the mixed duet technical final the Russian pair’s dominance was even more visible, Aleksandr Maltsev, dressed as a soldier, performed the same routine as last year in Kazan, this time with his new partner, Mikhaela Kalancha. This time they received higher marks and came one step closer to the 90-point barrier which has never been crossed in the mixed technical so far (not even the world champion US duet of Bill May and Christina Jones in Kazan).
The team free event’s final saw the first huge turnout at the synchro competitions, seats were filled for the most spectacular show of the discipline and the customers weren’t disappointed. Even though they couldn’t see the Russians’ miracle as the top nation skipped this part, as usual in the Olympic year when they opt to show the usually brand-new choreography only at the Games in order to create the maximum astonishment in the most important competition. Still, the others produced some thrills and magic, the powerful lifts and jumps of the Ukrainians, the vibrant water dances of the Italians and the Spaniards all pleased the crowd. With the Russians away, Ukraine got its first gold ahead of Italy and Spain and since Ukraine entered all events, they amassed enough points to finish ahead of Russia and clinch the Team Trophy.
The Ukrainian march continued in the diving pool as Iuliia Prokopchuk won the women’s platform for the fifth time her career. Nearing her 30th birthday this was a really balanced performance from one of the most dedicated divers of the Old Continent who won her first title 10 years ago. While her rivals had some ups and downs during the final, her lowest mark was 7.5, a rarity, while loads of 8.5s and 9.0s secured her win. The Brits chased her but even if Tonia Couch produced the best dive of the event, two weaker attempts prevented her from really challenging Prokopchuk. The bronze also stays in London, thanks to Georgia Ward.
Still, the Brits earned a full set of medals adding a gold to the girls’ silver and bronze. Jack Laugher left the scene with sadness on his face a day ago after he won the prelims with a huge margin but had to settle for the silver after a couple of errors in the final. This time, however, he was up to the task with Chris Mears. It was a thrilling ride with the Brits, the Russians and the Ukrainians chasing each other, after four rounds the Brits held a 5.88 points lead while the other two were separated by 0.06 points…
Still, the margin grew in the last two rounds as all three pairs came up with tremendous dives: at the peak of the battle they were able to show their very best. Both the Brits and the Russians performed 90+ pointers on their last two attempts, while the Ukrainians offered the highest scoring dive in the penultimate round for 98.04 but their last one was only enough for the bronze, while the somersault-battle (4 and half for both) favoured the Brits this time, much to joy of the enthusiastic crowd. And perhaps Laugher could leave the pool with a smile on his face: good things can also happen on Friday the 13th.
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Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of Deepbluemedia