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Team China is looking to make a splash in Paris by bringing home a gold medal

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-04 07:21
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Team China's artistic swimmers work hard to perfect the routines that they hope will put them on top of the Olympic podium in Paris this summer. [Photo/Xinhua]

With less than two months remaining until the Paris Olympics, the Chinese artistic swimming team has already familiarized itself with the competition venue and it is ready to make waves as it strives for Olympic glory this summer.

Last month, the second stop of the 2024 World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup was held at the brand-new Olympic Aquatic Centre in Paris, marking its debut as an official competition venue.

The three-day event attracted sellout crowds, who witnessed the Chinese team secure a silver medal in the team technical event and a fourth-place finish in the team acrobatic final.

The aquatics center, alongside the Le Bourget Climbing Wall, is one of the few permanent sports facilities being built for the Paris Games. Scheduled to host artistic swimming, water polo and diving at the summer Games, the center is notable for its exclusive use of bio-sourced materials, establishing it as a low-carbon facility committed to achieving outstanding energy and environmental performance.

Chinese team captain Feng Yu viewed the event as an ideal opportunity for the team to acclimate to the Olympic venue, effectively serving as a test run for the upcoming Games. "Any surprises or issues encountered during this competition will lay a solid foundation for our future preparations," Feng stated.

At the past three Olympic Games in London, Rio and Tokyo, the Chinese artistic swimming team has consistently reached the podium, claiming silver at all three Games in the team event, but the gap to the gold is steadily narrowing.

At the World Aquatics Championships in Doha in February, China achieved its best performance to date, winning seven golds, one silver and one bronze.

Notably, China clinched a third consecutive artistic swimming team free world title in Qatar, completing a golden hat-trick.

Team China has already secured qualification for both the team and duet events in the Paris Games' artistic swimming competitions, which are due to take place from Aug 5 to 10.

Feng and her teammates are currently engaged in rigorous preparations. Feng highlighted the significant transformations witnessed within the team from the previous Olympic cycle to the current one, particularly the infusion of cutting-edge technological support.

Notably, coaches now administer comprehensive tests on various physiological metrics, such as maximum oxygen intake and muscle strength, offering invaluable insights into athletes' physical capabilities, according to Feng.

"In this cycle, we've also incorporated underwater photography technology. While most attention tends to be on the surface, some persistent challenges may actually lie beneath the water," she said.

Feng perceives the role of captain as imbuing her with a heightened sense of responsibility. "The unwavering trust and expectation placed in me by every coach and team member provide tremendous impetus for my personal growth."

"The Chinese artistic swimming team epitomizes cohesion, with each of us sharing a singular goal and dream. There's a profound trust among us, and we constantly inspire one another," Feng emphasized.

In artistic swimming, there's a key team member known as the "performer". This athlete stands at the top during lifting sequences, soaring into the air as the centerpiece of the routine. Other team members work together to create a human pyramid and lift the performer high.

Twenty-seven-year-old Chang Hao is the performer on Team China. She reveals that underwater communication among teammates involves intricate hand signals, with two fingers symbolizing leg movements, facilitating precise coordination.

In Feng's mind, the lifting sequences represent not only the pinnacle of the routine, but also offer the greatest challenges, demanding flawless coordination among all eight participants.

"On the stage, our trust in one another knows no bounds. Positioned as the intermediary, I feel the strength passed from the teammates below, while also channeling support to the performer above. It's a pivotal role that connects both realms seamlessly," she said.

During competition, the distinctive fusion of Chinese-inspired attire and makeup stands as a hallmark of the national team. Chang revealed that there is a meticulous process that involves collaboration with professional designers and coaches.

"When it comes to our attire, we provide detailed input to the designers, specifying the desired patterns and colors for our swimsuits. The designers then craft prototypes, which we refine further," she explained.

As for the makeup, Chang said that it is applied quite generously, considering the distance from the judges during competitions is typically around 10 to 20 meters.

This ensures the features of each swimmer remain visible, even during the performances in the water, she said. Expressing the team's aspirations for the current campaign, Chang voiced its collective ambition: "We aim to grace the winners' podium wearing our distinctive awards attire," she concluded.

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