Canada sits 4th in synchro swimming team event
Other teams played to the British crowd with soccer and Beatles tributes.
Russia's meticulously planned performance was made for the judges, and perhaps that's why the three-time defending champions led the technical routine of the synchronized swimming team event Thursday in London.
Featuring Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina, the pair that won the duet Tuesday, Russia collected a near-perfect 98.1 points.
The favourites competed to an upbeat Russian dance routine composed by Denis Garnizov, as Prince William's wife, the former Kate Middleton, looked on from the crowd.
"It was a brand new routine and we've only been working on it for a year," Russia's Elvira Khasyanova said. "We think it contained all the necessary elements. … We are obviously very pleased with the score."
Meanwhile, Canada's swimmers wore soccer balls on their suits and caps and simulated goal-scoring kicks as they dove into the water. Australia's athletes swam to a Back in the USSR remix and had Kremlin motifs on their suits.
Russia's sparkling suits were classical red and gold — the colour they expect to have hanging around their necks on Friday.
"We aim to make the costumes as impressive as possible, and to unite the music, the choreography and the costumes," Khasyanova said.
Russia's other team members are Anastasia Davydova, Maria Gromova, Daria Korobova, Alexandra Patskevich, Alla Shishkina and Anzhelika Timanina.
Russia has swept gold in both the duet and team event at the last three games, and also has seven world titles in the team event.
"Everybody expects us to win gold and it is a lot of pressure," Romashina said. "They also forget that silver and bronze are medals too."
China was next with 97.0 points and Spain stood third with 96.2 points.
Four years ago in Beijing, Russia won ahead of Spain and China. That was also the finishing order for the duet at these Games.
"Tomorrow we will be better than the Chinese, although they are technically very strong, and we have a good surprise lined up" Spain's Alba Cabello Rodilla said. "We will be like mermaids in the ocean."
There are nine required elements for the technical routine, seven of which must be performed in a specified order. While Russia was able to launch two of its swimmers into the air for full flips, other teams struggled to pull off the difficult manoeuvre.
Medals will be handed out after Friday's free routines, with points from both days added up.
Canada placed fourth with 94.4 points and Japan was fifth with 93.8.
Clearly playing to the football-loving British crowd, Canada had to gain special approval from swimming governing body FINA to wear caps that looked like soccer balls — to make sure they didn't break the "no accessories" rule.
Britain, competing in the team event for the first time — with an automatic qualification as the host — finished sixth, ahead of Egypt and Australia.
"This is just a stepping stone towards Rio," Britain's Olivia Federici said, looking ahead to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. "We hope that we'll be peaking and rooting for a medal."
Besides raucous support from the home crowd, Kate, now the Duchess of Cambridge, also cheered on the British swimmers.
"We knew a few days ago that she was coming," Britain's Yvette Baker said. "It's really exciting for us to have someone with such a high profile come and watch our sport."
Australia was also content despite finishing last with 77.5 points. The crowd enjoyed the remix to the Beatles classic song, Back in the USSR.
"If we had a good swim then we're happy with that," Australia's Eloise Amberger said. "The scores don't mean much to us."