The top 12 teams advanced to the final

Updated: August 24, 2004, 8:35 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- The Russians and Japanese have a lock on the top two spots in synchronized swimming. The Americans would gladly settle for third.

Russia was first with 99.001 points and Japan second with 98.000 after the Olympic duet free preliminary routine Tuesday night. Americans Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova were third with 96.751.

The top 12 teams advanced to Wednesday night's final.

The Americans are in contention for the first U.S. synchro Olympic medal since 1996. Kozlova was fourth in duet with a different partner at the Sydney Games four years ago, while the United States finished fifth in team competition.

"I felt like we did really well," said Kozlova, of San Jose, Calif. "I was a little nervous. Once we started doing it, the nerves went away."

Kozlova and Bartosik have been fourth at most international competitions since they teamed up three years ago.

"In this sport, it's very difficult changing your ranking," said Bartosik, of Santa Clara, Calif. "Our goal coming into the Olympics was to come up to third. I hope we can stay there."

They will try to hold off the duo from Spain, who were fourth with 96.084.

The Americans swam to the music "Gorky Park" and three other dramatic compositions. Their 3-minute routine paid tribute to Greek mythology with a Medusa theme that included multicolored snakes on their sparkling suits and hairpieces.

"When we heard this music, we definitely thought of snakes," Bartosik said. "We feel very unique. We think it sets us apart. We look at it like a piece of artwork. We're trying to do as many unique and creative things as possible. Everyone seems to like it."

With no restrictions on music, choreography or elements, Bartosik and Kozlova used their 10 seconds of deckwork to wrap their arms and legs together, with one of the women on all fours and the other on her back.

"We were trying to do something where we're connected and intertwined," Bartosik said.

The red-sequined Russian duo of Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova performed to the rollicking music of "Don Quixote" by Ludwig Minkus.

The Russian and Italian judges each awarded the duo technical marks of 10.0, and the Ukrainian judge gave them a 10.0 for artistic impression.

For the second straight night, the Russians declined to talk to reporters.

Japan's Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda eschewed the usual entry dive and jumped in the air with their arms posed before dropping into the water.

They received all 9.8s for technical merit; their artistic marks were 9.8s except for a 9.9.

"I lost some energy in the last part. I was disappointed a little bit. I will need to improve that tomorrow," Tachibana said. "I was disappointed that the gap between Japan and Russia got bigger."

Russia won both the duet -- with different swimmers -- and team events at the 2000 Games, beating out the Japanese both times.

The evening's biggest reception was reserved for the Greek duo, whose routine frequently was punctuated by bursts of applause and wild cheering. They finished ninth and thus qualified for the final.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press