Synchro takes centre stage

17 April 2012 / 15:54

While synchronised swimming garners few column inches in Britain, this week sees it take centre stage at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park in the final qualification event for this summer's Games.

More than 160 athletes from 34 countries will compete at the Stratford venue for the three remaining team places, starting on Wednesday.

The competition, which doubles up as a London 2012 test event, runs until Sunday and features the likes of Olympic and world champions Russia, for whom Natalia Ischenko won six titles in Shanghai last summer.

Such success has led to Ischenko being dubbed 'Phelps in a skirt' given her ability to win gold medals like the American swimmer.

As host nation, Great Britain have already got a qualification spot but will compete this week, although the pair of Jenna Randall and Olivia Federici have pulled out of the duet event after the former suffered a sprained wrist.

Although Randall will compete in the team free, given the complexity of the duet routine it was deemed best not to take any risks. It is a blow for the pair who have been at the forefront of British improvement in recent years with silver in the duet at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Randall has also enjoyed solo success but it is not an Olympic event, with only the duet and team competitions included in the Games.

For national performance director Biz Price, the opportunity to compete this week was essential in order to gain big-event experience before the summer.

She said: "We have never really had a big competition in the country so that is why I thought it was critical for the team to gain the experience from this competition. We are not required to be here, in fact I'm sure there are some athletes and other countries that would prefer we are not.

"But as host nation we had the option and I wanted to take advantage of that option and let the athletes do a dry-run as it would be for the Olympic Games and feel that pressure in the huge environment of a home audience and how that might affect them."