Ishchenko, 26, won gold in the team event in Beijing and is the favorite in both the team and duet events this year. The duet routine she and partner Svetlana Romashina, 22, will perform in London is almost identical to the one that won gold in Shanghai last year.
The U.S. has a storied history in the sport -- from the 1973 world championships until the 2000 Olympics, the Americans captured a podium spot at every major international competition -- but it failed to qualify a team for the first time ever this year. The duet of Mary Killman, 21, and Mariya Koroleva, 22, featured in a longer SI.com piece
Canada has made waves (sorry) in recent years, and Japan was once a powerhouse -- it still owns the most Olympic medals in the history of the sport with 12, but the retirement of co-leaders Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda, owners of five medals each, after Athens made a huge dent -- but the new Big Three of Russia, China and Spain now owns the pool. The Russians are solidly at the top, having won gold in both the duet and team competitions at the last three Olympics, but the Chinese (six silvers and one bronze at the 2011 world championships) and Spanish (one silver and five bronzes) will be ready to swoop in should they stumble.
Canadian Marie-Pierre Boudreau-Gagnon, 29, has said she expects London to be her last Olympics. She placed sixth in the duet and fourth in the team event in Beijing and competed in six of seven events in Shanghai, missing only the team final. With a bronze in the team free routine combination, she was a member of the team that broke the Big Three's sweep at worlds.
Koroleva and Killman were born 364 days apart -- Koroleva on April 10, 1990 and Killman on April 9, 1991. ...To continue the pattern, Ishchenko was born on April 8, 1986 and Fuentes on April 7, 1983. ... Synchronized swimming is one of only two sports, along with rhythmic gymnastics, in which only women compete. ... The London organizing committee accidentally oversold the synchronized events by 10,000 tickets. ... Swimmers are allowed to wear nose clips to help them hold their breath, but goggles are not against the rules.