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Thursday, September 28
Americans stumble into fifth place

SYDNEY, Australia -- As expected, world champion Russia led after the technical routine in team synchronized swimming Thursday, while the Americans struggled to a fifth-place showing in defense of their Olympic title.

Russia, unbeaten at the Olympic qualifying tournament and dominant in international meets for several years, picked up one perfect 10 and seven 9.9s from the 10-judge panel for 34.580 points out of a possible 35.

"We are expecting gold because of all the work we've done," Russian team member Yulia Vasilieva said. "We're the best in the world. We always have been."

Japan was a close second at 34.510, receiving a couple of 10s. Following were Canada (33.787), France (33.763) and the United States (33.530).

The Americans' score was hurt by a synchronization blunder just seconds into their train-themed routine at the Sydney International Aquatic Center.

The technical routine accounts for 35 percent of the total score, the rest to be determined in the final Friday.

"We beat the United States," French team member Myriam Lignot said. "It is the first time this has happened and we are very happy."

The U.S. team won in Atlanta four years ago, extending its streak of capturing a medal in every synchronized event since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 1984.

But that came to end Tuesday, when Anna Kozlova and Tuesday Middaugh placed fourth in the duet won by Russians Olga Brusnikina and Maria Kisseleva.

Now, the Americans face an uphill battle to reach the medal podium in the eight-country team competition.

"Russia and Japan should win gold and silver," said Italian Serene Bianchi, whose team was in sixth. "But there are many other teams who could win the bronze medal."

In an effort to keep up with the rest of the world, the Americans experimented with new choreography. The most striking innovation is the "double tower lift," in which two swimmers -- one on top of the other -- are hoisted out of the water by their underwater teammates.

This was the first time technicals have been part of the team event. In the past, swimmers were required to perform figures.


Russian duet wins as Americans fall to fourth place

U.S. pair advance to synchronized swim final

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