FUKUOKA, Japan. July 20. JAPAN'S Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda combined to win the synchronized swimming duet final today. The victory marked the first time Japan has ever won gold at a world championship. In 28 years, Japan had never before won a gold medal at the world championship level in swimming, diving, water polo or synchro, although the country had won a number of silver and bronze medals.
The Japanese pair won the gold with a combined points score of 98.910 after a near-perfect final performance at the Marine Messe in Fukuoka.
They received full marks from four of the five judges for their artistic performance as well as another perfect score of 10 from one of the five technical judges.
"We were a little bit nervous because the crowd was so loud but we just tried to enjoy ourselves," Takeda said.
Russia's Anastasia Davydova and Anastassia Ermakova collected silver with a total of 98.390, which included a 10 for artistic impression from the Russian judge Marina Roschina.
Canada's Clair Carver-Dias and Fanny Letourneau claimed the silver with 96.704.
Once again, the US finished fourth. This time it was the duet team of Rebecca Martin and lauren McFall, who finished with 96.387 points, close behind their North American rivals.
The partership between Tachibana and Takeda has endured since the 1996 Olympics, with consistent second places. Tonight was their night and a new milestone for the sport.
Tachibana said it best "My dream was to make my coach (Masayo Imura) cry, but I'm in tears myself so I can't tell how I feel."
"We were very surprised by such enthusiastic support from the public. We could concentrate on our performance. My coach thought I was much better than in the prelims. The explanation is simple: for the final I tried to keep my concentration throughout the whole performance.
Takeda said: "I am lost for words. I gave it one hundred percent. I wanted to give my best performance because today is our final day. I was not nervous. Usually I am really on the edge, but today I was not scared. I swam with my best smile."
"Tachibana and I are very different, but when we perform together we try to emphasize each other's best qualities. That's what happened today. We are really a team. Our win will certainly encourage and develop synchronized swimming in Japan and we hope more youngsters discover the enjoyment of this sport."
The performance rated five 10s, four 9.9s and one 9.8. It was worth 98.110 good enough to beat the Russian pair of Anastaysia Davidova and Anastassia Ermakova who are more than a decade younger.
The Russians in fact will be contesting for the title at the World Juniors later this summer. Their performance was strong with one 10, five 9.9s and four 9.8 for a total of 98.390.
"We had to perfom after the Japanese," Davydova said. "They were good, and we had the jitters. This was out first big international event and we dedicate the silver medal to our coach. "I think we can replace Brusnikina and Kisseleva (Russia's 2000 Olympic champions). We have a long way ahead and our goal is 2004 in Athens."
The fact that we were the last to perform," Ermakova said, "and the circumstance of the Japanese getting such high marks, was not good psychologically. When they called our names we focused on trying to beat the Japanese."
Canada's Claire Carver-Dias and Fanny Letourneau held on their third place which they established in the first of three rounds. They got 96.704 points, edging the American off the podium.
"We had back luck with the draw," Carver-Dias said.
"The first to perform from the top four is not that good. But it's all about what we do when we get out there."
"Canadians should be pleased. We always try to do crowd-pleasing routines and our fans really appreciate that. They cheered us loudly and that's great. We have to thank the city of Fukuoka for their outstanding support for synchronized swimming. They really understand what we do in the water."
A First for Japan
Since the World Championships began in 1973, Japan had come up dry, never before winning a gold medal in either swimming, diving, water polo or synchronised swimming.
Tachibana and Takeda finished second behind the Russian pair of Olga Sedakova and Olga Brusnikina at the last World Championships in Perth in 1998 and also finished second at last year's Sydney Olympics.
They went into the final round leading on points, of which a percentage carry over, and won easily, impressing the judges and the capacity crowd with their quirky routine.
"It's great to finish first, it's a dream come true for us to win in Japan," said Tachibana, who also finished third in Thursday's solo final.
SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING DUET FINAL
Rank Nation Name YB Pen. Score 100%
1 JPN TACHIBANA Miya 74 TM 9.9 9.8 10.0 9.9 9.9 60% 59.400 99.400 34.300
TAKEDA Miho 76 AI 9.9 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0 40% 40.000 64.610 98.910
2 RUS DAVYDOVA Anastasia 83 TM 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.8 9.8 60% 59.000 98.600 34.300
ERMAKOVA Anastassia 83 AI 10.0 9.9 9.9 9.9 9.8 40% 39.600 64.090 98.390
3 CAN CARVER-DIAS Claire 77 TM 9.8 9.7 9.5 9.5 9.7 60% 57.800 96.867 33.740
LETOURNEAU Fanny 79 AI 9.8 9.8 9.7 9.8 9.7 40% 39.067 62.964 96.704
4 USA MARTIN Rebecca 81 TM 9.6 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.6 60% 58.000 96.667 33.553
McFALL Lauren 80 AI 9.7 9.7 9.6 9.7 9.6 40% 38.667 62.834 96.387
5 ESP MENGUAL Gemma 77 TM 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.6 9.4 60% 57.000 95.000 33.227
TIRADOS Paola 80 AI 9.5 9.5 9.4 9.6 9.5 40% 38.000 61.750 94.977
6 FRA DEDIEU Virginie 79 TM 9.5 9.4 9.2 9.3 9.3 60% 56.000 94.267 33.273
GLEZ Myriam 80 AI 9.6 9.6 9.5 9.5 9.7 40% 38.267 61.274 94.547
7 ITA ZAFFALON Lorena 81 TM 9.3 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 60% 56.000 93.600 32.853
PACCAGNELLA Joey 81 AI 9.4 9.4 9.3 9.4 9.4 40% 37.600 60.840 93.693
8 CHN XIA Ye 80 TM 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.4 9.4 60% 56.200 93.400 32.713
ZHANG Xiaohuan 80 AI 9.4 9.3 9.3 9.3 9.3 40% 37.200 60.710 93.423