What we learned: Artistic swimming wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 02: Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina of Team ROC compete in the Artistic Swimming Duet Free Routine Preliminary on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 02: Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina of Team ROC compete in the Artistic Swimming Duet Free Routine Preliminary on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

From ROC winning both events to Svetlana Romashina clinching her record-setting seventh gold medal, take a look at the top moments, get highlights, replays, and find out what to look forward to at Paris 2024.

Artistic swimming, known as synchronised swimming until 2017, has been on the Olympic programme since the Los Angeles 1984 Games. Along with rhythmic gymnastics, it is one of two women-only sports at the Olympic Games. And at Tokyo 2020, the stars of the sport wowed us once more.

Swimmers representing ROC, who have dominated artistic swimming winning every event since Sydney 2000, once again shone the brightest in the pool at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

And Svetlana Romashina became the sole athlete with the most medals in the sport, winning her sixth and seventh Olympic gold medals in Tokyo.

Read on for artistic swimming's top five moments at Tokyo 2020; where you can get highlights and replays free and on-demand; and take a look ahead at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Svetlana Romashina: "I love my sport, it'll be difficult to stop"
03:22

The most decorated athlete in artistic swimming history, Svetlana Romashina, admits that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are likely her final Games, but it won't be easy for her to call it quits: "I have a certain internal drive that probably doesn't let me stop," she said in an exclusive interview.

Top five artistic swimming moments from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

1. Domination by ROC swimmers continues

The ROC swimmers won both the duet and team events in Tokyo, continuing an incredible run stretching back 21 years.

Athletes representing Russia or ROC last failed to win a gold medal in the sport at Atlanta 1996, when only the team event was on the programme and the Russian team finished off the podium in fourth.

It means ROC and Russia have now won 12 consecutive gold medals in this sport.

"That was a really hard year, two years, and too much crying, too much working," Vlada Chigireva said after winning team gold. "We are really happy that we are here.

"Every day we are smiling that we are here in the Aquatics Centre, in the Olympic Village, and we want to say to all Japanese people that we love you."

2. Svetlana Romashina breaks records

ROC's Svetlana Romashina won her first Olympic gold medal as part of Russia's gold-medal-winning team at Beijing 2008.

Now, 13 years later – having been part of every duet and team since London 2012 – she has left Tokyo with seven golds, two more than any other artistic swimmer has ever won at the Olympic Games.

Quite the way to sign off from the Olympics, if what she said afterwards about her future holds true.

"I can't say that they're different, but I can say that the sixth and the seventh medal were the [most difficult] in my life," Romashina said. "I became a mother and it was very difficult to be a mother and athlete at one moment.

"I'm very, very happy about this medal. I understand that it will be my last Olympic Games as an athlete. I understand that maybe it's my last competition. I don't know yet, but maybe."

3. Ukraine make history in sport

When Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk won bronze in the duet competition, they became Ukraine's first Olympic medallists in artistic swimming.

Their score of 189.4620 beat out hosts Japan for the podium.

Then, three days later, both women repeated their bronze-medal feat as the Ukrainians won team bronze, again denying Japan a spot on the podium.

It bodes well for the country as they look to make their mark on Olympic competition, having won multiple World Championships medals in recent years.

4. Mothers make their marks

In addition to Romashina, who became a mother in November 2017 following the Rio 2016 Games the year prior and returned to the top level of the sport, the captain of the Spanish team Ona Carbonell also made it back to the top after giving birth.

Carbonell had originally decided not to compete at Tokyo 2020 to start a family, and had son Kai in August 2020.

However, with the postponement of the Games, Carbonell was able to mount a comeback – she was back training barely a month and a half after Kai was born.

She led Spain to European team technical routine bronze in May this year, before a second-place finish at the Olympic Qualifying Event in front of her family in Barcelona in June.

"We were standing there, listening to the scores, when I suddenly saw Kai in the crowd," she told Tokyo 2020 before the Games. "I started to cry because it was really poignant for me – I just thought about my son and about all the sacrifices and effort that I went through. I saw him and everything paid off."

The double Olympic medallist from London 2012 was the only member of Spain's team with a prior Olympic appearance, and the team's relative inexperience showed as they finished seventh.

But it was a triumph for Carbonell, proving that motherhood need not be the end of her sporting career.

Why motherhood makes us better athletes
03:25

Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Alex Morgan, Ona Carbonell and Gwen Jorgensen. Five champions but also five mothers. As double Olympic 100m champion Fraser Pryce says: "Motherhood does not stop us from achieving our goals. If anything, it adds value to who we are." They talk about how their lives changed after giving birth and how it affected their careers.

5. Athletes prove difficulty of sport

Artistic swimming can come across as all aesthetics and beauty, no athleticism, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

While no major injuries were reported from routines at Tokyo 2020, qualifying for the Games saw athletes suffer broken bones, concussions, and even pass out from being under water.

The artistic swimmers are true athletes practising a difficult sport, which does not necessarily translate to what is seen on television broadcasts or in the stands.

Highlights

The highlights and replays of the Tokyo 2020 artistic swimming events are available here on demand: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays 

One last look

There were no surprises with the destination of either the duet or team gold medals, with ROC expectedly taking both Olympic titles for the sixth straight time.

Svetlana Romashina was involved in both victories, taking her individual medal total from five golds to seven for her career, making her the single most-decorated artistic swimming athlete in Olympic history.

People's Republic of China and Ukraine took silver and bronze respectively behind ROC in both events, with the medals marking Ukraine's first two ever won in the sport.

And the world was wowed once more by the sheer athletic brilliance of these athletes, some of whom returned from maternity to compete.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 03: Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina of Team ROC compete in the Artistic Swimming Duet Technical Routine on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 03: Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina of Team ROC compete in the Artistic Swimming Duet Technical Routine on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Hello Paris

So, what next in three years' time at the next Games in Paris?

Even with Romashina having hinted at retirement, and indicated that Tokyo was her last Olympic Games after four appearances, the swimmers who represented ROC in Tokyo should remain favourites to continue their streak in the French capital in 2024.

They have won both events for six straight Olympic Games and it would appear to need a big upset for that to change.

However, Ukraine may be buoyed by their first medals, and with that country continuing to make their mark at World Championships, they will hope to challenge in Paris.

Tokyo 2020 artistic swimming medallists

Women's duet

Gold: Svetlana Kolesnichenko / Svetlana Romashina (ROC)

Silver: HUANG Xuechen / SUN Wenyan (CHN)

Bronze: Marta Fiedina / Anastasiya Savchuk (UKR)

Women's team

Gold: ROC

Silver: People's Republic of China

Bronze: Ukraine