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Tuesday, September 26, 2000


Synchro pair take a chance but finish out of medals

 SYDNEY (CP) -- Their program was ahead of its time. Too far ahead maybe.

 Fanny Letourneau of Deux-Montagnes, Que., and Claire Carver-Dias of Toronto performed a quirky, funky, at times visionary and at other times simply bizarre routine in the final of the pairs synchronized swimming which left them out of the medals at the Olympic Games on Tuesday.

 The pair came into the finals facing an uphill battle after placing fifth in the preliminaries. Things got worse when they were the fifth of 12 teams to perform in the final. They finished in fifth place.

 "We feel we're pioneers in the sport," said Carver-Dias, water streaming down a multi-hued suit which looked like it started out white but had been washed with too many bright colours.

 The gold medal went to Olga Brusnikina and Maria Kisseleva of Russia. Silver went to the Japanese pair of Miya Tachibana, Mino Takeda and the French pair Virginie Dedieu, Myriam Lignot.

 "We have a routine that is so original. We're doing something different. It's not the traditional synchro. It's a risk. We just went out to have a good time and entertain the crowd."

 The Canadian routine stuck out in the sedate synchro waters like someone wearing a Hawaiian shirt at a funeral.

 While most of the other pairs stuck to classical or easy-listening music, Letourneau and Carver-Dias swam to a grating electro-beat that was intriguing but almost irritating at times. It's was like hearing Fat Boy Slim being played in church.

 The daring routine called madness, put together with the help of Cirque du Soleil choreographer Debra Brown, is a journey through insanity. While other teams swam like ballet dancers, the Canadians thrashed and cavorted like kids at a rave. They laughed, screwed their faces into freakish poses and made strange hand gestures. At one point, Letourneau spoke into Carver-Dias foot like a telephone.

 The pro-Canadian crowd in the near empty 17,000-seat Sydney Aquatic Centre waved Maple Leafs and cheered. The judges seemed to appreciate if not totally understand what the pair were up to. They received marks of mostly 9.5 for technical merit and 9.7s for artistic impression.

 "We knew we had to take a risk," said Carver-Dias.

 "I don't think I would have enjoyed this year without doing something that was really risky. Whether or not the judges can handle it, in two years we'll be looked upon as pioneers in the sport. We can't control the marks, but we can control what we put in our routines and how we swim it."

 Carver-Dias, 23, and Letourneau, 21, came into the competition ranked fourth in the world. They won the duet gold at the Pan Am Games in 1999.

 In the four Olympic Games that synchronized swimming has been staged, Canada has won two individual gold, a duet gold, a duet silver and a team silver. The duet event was brought back after the 1996 Olympics in which there was only the team event.



reprinted with permission

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