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September 24, 2000
Twins in harmony
Three pairs of twins contested the synchronised swimming duet which returned to the Olympic programme on Sunday.
Slovakia's Livia and Lucia Allarova, Egypt's Heba and Sara Abdel Gawad and Brazil's Carolina and Isabela Moraes will not feature on the medal podium.
But they set a record of their own as the greatest number of twins in Olympic synchronised swimming since the sport entered the programme at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Mexican sisters Erika and Lillian Leal also featured in the duet and Japanese sisters Yuko and Yoko Yoneda will figure in the team event.
The Mexican sisters were ninth, the Brazilian twins 13th, the Egyptian twins 21st and the Slovakian twins back-markers at 24th in the technical routine which opened the competition on Sunday.
Russians Olga Brusnikina and Maria Kisseleva, stripped of the European title they had won in July after Kisseleva failed a dope test, led the way from Japanese and French pairs.
The duet returns after being dropped for the 1996 Atlanta Games but in the three previous Olympics twins snapped up three of the nine medal places in the discipline.
"It's easier because we count the music in the same way, so it's easier to get synchronised," Heba Abdel Gawad said. "It also grabs more attention when we go to competitions."
"Being twins helps a lot," Egyptian coach Lamia Ahmed said. "One of the biggest problems you find in duet is that one of the partners improves quicker than the other. Twins improve at an equal rate. Synchro is all about looking the same."
Livia and Lucia Allarova, who have been coached by their mother Helena for 14 years, say they share a bond. "We have ESP (extra-sensory perception) experiences and share the same consciousness," Livia said. "I know my sister and can think what she's doing."
Kisseleva was banned for one month after testing positive for ephedrine, an offence which would normally have carried a three-month suspension, barring her from the Olympics.
Russian swimming federation president Gennady Alyoshin said, however, that a lighter sentence had been imposed because the substance had been taken unwittingly in a supplement to control her weight.
The Russians, who would have won the European duet title for the third time in succession, notched 98.800 points ahead of Japan's Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda (98.000) and Virginie Dedieu and Myriam Lignot of France (97.133).
The French pair took over as European champions after the title was taken away from the Russians.
Swimmers take 35 percent of their technical routine scores through to add to 65 percent of the scores they receive in Monday's free routine preliminaries. Twelve pairs will contest the final on Tuesday.
The team event, featuring eight teams, takes place on Thursday and Friday.
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