In 2017, FINA, the governing body of aquatic sports, officially changed the name of the sport from “synchronized swimming” to “artistic swimming.” According to FINA officials, the change was made to increase the sport’s popularity and eliminate confusion regarding the word “synchronized” (it referred to athletes being in synch with music, not with each other, as is the case with synchronized diving).
The announcement was met with widespread opposition from personalities within the sport. Several national governing bodies, including the U.S. and Russia, objected to the change they felt was unnecessary and made without enough athlete input. In March of 2020, over two and a half years after the FINA announcement, the American governing body became the first to officially change its name to reflect the FINA decision, switching from USA Synchro to USA Artistic Swimming.
Team Russia: Russia has won every available artistic swimming gold medal at the last five Olympic Games, and that streak is not expected to end in Tokyo. The 2017 and 2019 world championships certainly did not reveal any sign of slip-up, as Russia swept gold in Team and Duet competition at both events. (NOTE: While a World Anti-Doping Agency ban will prevent Russia’s name, flag and anthem from appearing in Tokyo, clean athletes, including teams, will be permitted to compete in all competitions as ROC – an abbreviation for Russian Olympic Committee – under a flag with the ROC symbol.)
Svetlana Romashina: After winning her fourth and fifth Olympic gold medals in Rio as a member of the Russian team and duet, artistic swimming legend Svetlana Romashina took an indefinite break from the sport to become a mother. Some considered this a permanent retirement, but Romashina quickly ended the speculation in 2018, returning to full-time training. At 2019 Worlds, Romashina won her 21st world championship, passing her countrywoman and former duet partner Natalia Ishchenko, who retired in 2017, for most artistic swimming world championships ever. A sixth Olympic gold in Tokyo would separate her from Ishchenko in Olympic competition, cementing Romashina as the sport’s greatest of all-time.
Team USA (?): Despite being the second-most successful artistic swimming country at the Olympics, the United States has not won a medal at the Games since Athens 2004, and has not qualified for the team competition since Beijing 2008. Hoping to change that is Andrea Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medalist in 2008 and 2012 representing Spain. Fuentes was hired as the head coach of the U.S. senior national team in Fall of 2018. Team USA will compete at the 2021 FINA Olympic Qualification Tournament, May 1-4 in Tokyo, hoping to fill one of the three remaining team slots and seven remaining duet spots.