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16th FINA World Championships

July 24 - August 9, 2015
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Olga Brusnikina: In synchronised swimming a man should stay a man, rather than a woman’s copy

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08.08.2015, 10:00 Sport
Olga Brusnikina, three-time Olympic champion in the synchronised swimming event, sat down for an interview with a sports reporter of the Press Office of the Kazan 2015 Organising Committee. She shared her impression of competitions and talked about the mixed duet synchronised swimming event and a remarkable comeback of Natalia Ishchenko.

– How would you personally assess the level of the synchronised swimming event delivery at the 16th FINA World Championships?

– Everything was delivered to the highest possible standard! And it is not just my personal point of view. Being the director of the synchronised swimming tournament, I happened to speak a lot with FINA technical delegates during the competitions. You know it’s much more important to hear what they, unbiased and competent experts, say. All of them mentioned that people coming to Kazan are given the warmest and most hospitable welcome, that local people are very friendly here and that the Championships are organised to the highest standard. This is an opinion of experts who cannot have a subjective judgment. And their opinion is as close to reality as possible.

– Your opinion is quite important as well. In the lead-up to the Championships, you’ve been several times to Kazan inspecting the venue, now during the Championships you’ve been even working at the Kazan Arena Stadium. Have your impressions about the sports facilities changed over this time?

– You see Kazan has tremendous experience of hosting major international sporting events. The Championships are staged by a well-coordinated and professional team that has a clear idea of what sport is, of what spectators really want to see and how to provide them with the best possible broadcasting experience. Every detail has its own place, every decision is logical, and each person is so kind-spirited that he/she inspires everyone with positive emotions. Even if some troubles appear to be they are usually solved rather quickly, by means of only one call. It’s also great that I was not solving and deciding everything all by myself. The team helped me a lot. I repeat myself everything went simply great.

– From the very beginning the idea of the synchronised swimming event being held at the Kazan Arena Stadium caused many arguments. Do you agree now that this idea was not that bad since the interest to the synchronised swimming event was rather high?

– It’s been for the first time ever when the synchronised swimming tournament brought together so many spectators, the stands were literally overcrowded. No one has seen anything like this before. The Championships have never been staged at the football stadium before, therefore all those visited events at the Kazan Arena Stadium noted how efficiently everything was organised at the stadium: two 50m swimming pools located within walking distance from each other; comfortable conditions both for athletes and spectators. I guess it was a success and the future World Aquatics Championships host cities shouldn’t be afraid of trying the same thing. If there are no swimming pools of an appropriate size there should be no worries it can be easily installed everywhere without any problems (laughs).

– What was synchro swimmers' reaction to the fact that they will have to perform outdoors?

– The athletes competing in the Championships usually are used to perform at sports venues of any kind including outdoor facilities. That is why for them there was nothing to worry about. Another thing is that the weather was not that warm on the first days of the tournament, which made synchro swimmers feel a bit uncomfortable during their performances. Fortunately, later the weather got warmer and everything was excellent. It is a great pleasure for synchro swimmers to perform outdoors because unlike indoor swimming pools here they can breathe fresh air. Some athletes even sent us thank-you letters and postcards in which they expressed their gratitude for providing them with an outdoor venue. I can assure you that the synchronised swimming event was staged to the highest standard and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Kazan 2015 Organising Committee and Russian referees who have been working hard here from the first day till the last of the tournament. I want to express my huge gratitude to them all! When the professionals get to work, they always do their job perfectly. All members of the OC workforce understood each other without any words.

– The stands were crazy when the synchro swimmers were performing. How did they manage to overcome this tremendous pressure since some of them saw this happening for the first time?

– Every single athlete including synchro swimmers is happy to see overcrowded stands during their events. It charges them with certain energy before their performance. Frankly speaking the synchronised swimming event doesn’t usually attract so many spectators that is why we’ve been especially pleased to get this kind of attention. All our athletes felt the warmth and wild cheers from the stands and will never forget the storm of applause they were greeted with (smiles). It was awesome! Needless to say fans gave a fantastic support to the Russian team!

 – Speaking of the hosts of the swimming pool, am I right in saying that the most memorable and outstanding event is the Russian national team’s performance?

– We were expecting nothing but triumph from them and they lived up to our expectations.

– How do other countries react to Russia’s hegemony in the synchronised swimming events? Even this time, at the home Championships, we managed to get eight out of nine medals.

 – To tell you the truth sometimes I happen to hear that Russia’s superiority in synchronised swimming event is quite predictable, allegedly it is not that exciting to follow Russia’ success. Although saying that they do not get much into the detail that Russia’s every single gold medal is justified because our synchro swimmers are the best! If it was not so believe me they would have been edged out to the second or third places long time ago. Due to the remarkable level of expertise of Russian synchro swimmers they leave no chances to the others to top the podium in the nearest future. For example diving event is marked by Chinese golden streak and no one wonders why. The reason is quite obvious they are simply good at it. The same thing happens in the synchronised swimming event I guess.   

– Surprisingly, the new judging system makes it possible to maintain leadership. At press conferences the Russian synchronised swimmers confessed they could not always follow how and why they got these or those scores.

– Yes, synchronised swimming events of these Championships were for the first time judged by the new scoring system. But I can say that FINA does everything to make the judging more and more transparent with every year. I think time will show and athletes and spectators will see that the sport will only benefit from these changes.

– However, one famous Russian sports commentator, while commenting the mixed duet competitions, expressed an opposite view.

– A mixed duet event is another story. In my opinion, the public got outraged with the situation that topping the preliminary round standings the Russian pair lost in the final. Not the scoring system was questioned, but the outcome of the battle.

– But deep down do you agree with Dmitry Guberniev?

– I agree with him in terms of adopting the same scoring criteria for evaluating the women’s duets and mixed duets. No new rules and regulations were introduced for judging a new duet. We had to see the routine created for a women’s duet. The US pair did not focus on synchronicity, but took a new approach. Their choice brought them the inaugural world title. Hopefully, in the nearest future FINA will define the role of a male athlete in a mixed duet and their performance will be judged to absolutely different criteria. It would result in absolutely different routines which will be judged from a different angle.

We played according to the old rules here in Kazan, the routines of our mixed duet being created to comply with these rules. The Americans made a sidestep, and the judges appeared to differ in their opinions. That was the problem. If you ask me, our pair performed better according to the existing requirements.

– Do you think that the debut of the mixed duet event at the World Championships was a success?

– Of course! This is an inspiring start for the new discipline, no matter what happened to our national team. Now they are not talking about that too much, but before the start the Russian duet was predicted to win the third place or lower. Aleksandr Maltsev got stronger this year and managed to prove the opposite.

– After the mixed duet event was over, they started to talk about including this sport onto the Olympic programme. Don’t you think it is too early?

– Yes, I think it is. It is well known that one of the compulsory requirements for a sport to be included in the Olympics is the fact that it is widely practiced around the world. For now, no more than ten countries, mainly Europe, are represented in the mixed duet competition. That’s why my opinion is that this idea has no solid ground yet. First, let’s see when new rules will be adopted for the mixed duet routines, because nowadays they are judged by the girl-girl criteria. Before we see an obvious difference between a mixed duet and women’s duet, this issue should not even be brought up. A man’s role in a duet should be clearly determined. A man should stay a man, and not a woman’s copy.

– Every World Championships usually set a trend for many years ahead. Was there something special you have taken notice of here in Kazan?

– Leaving aside the mixed duet events, I see that team routines are gaining more popularity. It is not a coincidence that three medal events were held at these Championships: technical, free and combination. Only the highlight routine was not featured here. I think that synchronised swimming is currently developing in this direction. And emphasis is placed on team events that’s why we should also focus on them. Acrobatic elements  such as lifts, throws, dives are back on trend. A big seminar for coaches and judges was held in Kazan these days. Its participants discussed degrees of difficulty for different kinds of lifts. I think there will be more focus on lifts in the future.

– Natalia Ishchenko’s triumphant comeback is another big topic of discussion at the FINA Worlds 2015.

– No doubt about that! The comeback of our Olympic duet could not stay unnoticed. Everybody anticipated seeing our girls in good shape, but they wowed fans and judges with their outstanding performance and proved that they have no intention to give up their next Olympic gold (smiles). Their level of preparation was very high and their scores speak for themselves.

–  Romashina-Ishchenko’s gold-winning routine, Russian synchro swimming team’s triumphant  performance, home World Championships – can all these facts become an impetus to the increase of boys and girls enrollment in synchronised swimming? 

– Of course any major sporting event plays a crucial role in the development of synchronised swimming, let alone the FINA World Championships that are held these days in our country. The tournament in Kazan is a great chance for us to give an impetus to the development and promotion of our sport. I think that after the FINA Masters 2015 sports schools in Russia will face a huge enrollment boom when parents will want to send their daughters, and even sons, to synchronised swimming schools. And it is awesome. If there is a healthy competition within our own country, we can always count on a strong roster for our national team. 

Press Office of Organising Committee for 16th FINA World Championships