Both #StrongerTogether and the Olympic Torch Relay's ‘Hope lights our way’ are mottos that have exemplified the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which take place in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These mottos would have suited any edition of the Games, but they have been especially poignant during the build-up to Tokyo 2020.
When the Olympics finally take place this summer, they will represent union after a year that has fragmented the world; a year when people stayed home and the battles didn’t take place on tracks, in stadiums or in pools, but in hospitals.
But sport still represents life, and at last the time has come to celebrate it, more united than ever. That is the vision of the Spanish artistic swimming team, led by Ona Carbonell and Txell Mas, who wish to embody this message in the water.
And to do so, they haven’t only thought about what to say, but how to say it.
In the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Spain have prepared what could be one of the most inclusive and innovative artistic swimming routines – and they shared it with Tokyo 2020 and Olympics.com before they are due to demonstrate it to a global audience at the European Championship and the Olympic qualifier, which takes place between 10 and 13 June 2021.
How did the idea arise?
"There is a very strong connection between the Olympics and the Paralympics at Tokyo 2020. Besides that, Japan are trying to show that, not only athletes but people in general are all equal. We want to be synchronised with these messages,” explained Mayuko Fujiki, the Japanese coach of the Spanish artistic swimming team.
Fujiki immediately made a connection with an idea she had been thinking about for a long time: “Since I was a child, I've thought about how people that cannot hear any sound see our sport and if they were enjoying it without music, because without it you don’t enjoy it 100%. So how could we connect with people that cannot hear any sound?"
Taking all of this into account, the routine Spain will present during the European Championship and Olympic qualifier began to take shape. The team will not only mix Japanese and flamenco music, they will also share a message through sign language.
It is beautiful to use the sport as a way of, in this case, getting people to know sign language
Ona Carbonell, Spanish artistic swimmer
The whole team immediately loved the idea.
"It is something new, innovative, interesting and good. To be honest, for me it was a great idea," said Alisa Ozhigina, member of the Spanish team and 'sign captain' – a title she received by Mayuko Fujiki.
Her teammate and captain of the team, Txell Mas, smilingly recalled the first day their coach shared the idea with them. "When [Mayuko] arrived and told us all this, we said 'OMG, that's cool!'. It is a super cool idea. We loved it immediately, so we started to go deeper and try to assemble the movements, the signs and the music."
Ona Carbonell, another member of the team and the female swimmer with the most World Championship medals in history, is grateful that artistic swimming offers them the opportunity to do something like this. "It is beautiful to use the sport as a way of, in this case, getting people to know sign language. In our case, as artistic swimming is a subjective sport and it has that artistic part, we can use that to also say something, to raise awareness in some way," she said.
Sports means life. This will be a very special Games because there will be a strong unity:
whatever happens, we will all break barriers to reach them
Txell Mas, Spanish artistic swimming team captain
A message of equality
The message of Ona Carbonell is the same one that Spain embodies during this routine – the equality of humanity.
This equality is all the more important after COVID-19, which caused the postponement of the Games until 2021 – a fate that afflicted many other sports competitions over the past year.
"Every country has been in more or less the same situation, and we have suffered in the same way. That’s why I think these Olympics are so special, because they truly show unity in sports – besides the competition of course – and they mean we will have overcome everything we have been living through and they are a way to show the world that, whatever happens, sport gives life. They will be a very special Olympic Games because they will show great unity. Whatever happens, will will all break barriers to reach them,” Txell Mas explained.
What Spain say in their sign language routine:
"Nobody is special.
You and I we are equal because no one is a hero.
All the world have above the same sky.
We go trough all these difficulties to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,
which are our goal.
When I look back,
I see you.
And when I look forward,
I see my friends, who are supporting me.
And, thanks to that, my heart
We go to a new future."
When will the Artistic Swimming Olympic Qualification Tournament take place
The Artistic Swimming Olympic Qualification Tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will take place between 10 and 13 June 2021 in Barcelona, Spain.
Three of the 10 teams that take part in the qualifier will book their tickets to Tokyo. Besides that, seven of the 22 duos in the final will gain their quota for this summer’s Olympics.
This competition will also be the Super Final of the Artistic Swimming World Series.
Barcelona will once again be hosts of a major international artistic swimming competition, after hosting the World Championships in 2003 and 2013.