Being perpetually stuck in fourth place – just off the podium – is frustrating, but Canada’s synchronized swimmers are thinking outside the box in their attempts to bump ahead.
Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon and Elise Marcotte tried to earn Canada its first synchronized swimming Olympic medal in 12 years on Tuesday at the London Games with a totally unique routine in the duet competition.
The pair got the only giggle of the day from the crowd and certainly set itself apart with its light and lively routine and jester-themed sequined swimsuits in a competition full of theatrical performances to dramatic music. But ultimately, Canada remained stuck in fourth behind the three firmly-rooted synchro powerhouses.
As expected, Russia won its fourth consecutive Olympic title in the duet. Svetlana Romashina and Natalia Ishchenko took gold, while Ona Carbonell Ballestero and Andrea Fuentes Fache of Spain won the battle with Liu Ou and Huang Xuechen of China for silver.
Yet it’s a big jump for Canada in the duet since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where Boudreau Gagnon had placed sixth competing with Isabelle Rampling. It was Canada’s top duet finish since 1992.
“For sure, we are a bit disappointed with the scores,” Marcotte said. “But we can only control what we can control, and that was to do an amazing performance. We did that today.”
The Canadian duo aimed to set a totally different tone with its a nod to the Queen in London, a whimsical take on royal court jesters.
“We’re stuck in fourth place, so what did we have to lose, so we needed to do something to move up,” Marcotte said. “In duet, we did as much as we could, and in team [on Thursday] you will see how different it is, very thematic, the judges will be shocked, and the crowd is going to get into our routine. We want to move up, so we have to try something different.”
Head coach Julie Sauvé also thought the Canadians deserved a better score. She said it’s about gradually changing the minds of the judges in the sport by showing great variety in routines and taking risks to get their attention.
“We want to be different from the other programs, because the other programs have more a bang-bang-bang non-stop music, a lot of water, and splashing,” Sauvé said. “And we said no, we’ll try to swim clean. Go for the opposite totally. Clean, no water, calm, have fun, light movements. This is what we did. Maybe the judges will recognize that later when they watch the video.”
Canada also pushed the envelope in 2011 when it implemented Metallica music into its duet, a far cry from the more sport’s typically conservative musical choices. Often, Sauvé acknowledged, it takes several competitions for a team’s risk-taking to grow on the judges.
Canada’s best shot to bump up within the sports’ super powers will begin on Thursday as the team competition begins. Boudreau Gagnon and Marcotte will be part of the Canadian team that has kept its technical and free routines secret from the judges and competitors. Canada has consulted experts in sport biomechanics, acrobatics and Cirque du Soleil staff and performers.
On Thursday, Canada will unveil its soccer-themed technical routine, another wink to the Olympic host city. Then Friday, the team will perform its highly-anticipated Circus-themed free routine.
Once a powerhouse in the sport, Canada has not won an Olympic medal in synchro since the 2000 Sydney Games.
“We’re looking forward in team now, they are two different events, and we have a lot of chance in team to get on that podium,” Boudreau Gagnon said. “So we are just going to fight for it.”