Five-times Olympic champion Svetlana Romashina and her partner Svetlana Kolesnichenko kept the Russian Olympic Committee on top of the leaderboard after the synchronised swimming duet technical routine at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Tuesday.
Romashina won the duet titles in Rio and London with different partners but looked equally comfortable alongside Kolesnichenko to claim the top score for the second successive evening and top the standings with a combined 195.0079.
China’s Rio silver medallists Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan earned a combined 195.0079 for second place to take their place in Wednesday’s final, where the top 12 pairs will battle it out for the Olympic title.
The Ukrainian duo of Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk was third with 188.7953, while host Japan stands fourth with 187.2832.
The Russians topped the standings on Monday despite a musical glitch that left them performing unaccompanied at the beginning of their routine.
There were no slip-ups on Tuesday and a pop remix of the Russian folk song “Kalinka” boomed out across the pool from the start.
“We cannot make any little mistakes tomorrow, we need to make our programme more emotional,” said 21-times world champion Romashina.
“And, of course, it’s better to have music from the beginning. We were talking with our DJ and he apologised … but it’s the Olympic Games and anything can happen.”
Japan’s Yukiko Inui and Megumu Yoshida were disappointed not have finished in the medal positions after their routine, which was accompanied by a song called “Sakura”, or cherry blossom.
“Unlike the free routine, there are required elements for the technical routine, so I was more nervous today,” said Inui, who won bronze in Rio with Risako Mitsui.
“(Fourth) was not what we wanted, but we were able to cut the point difference with Ukraine from yesterday. We want to keep up the momentum.”
The Greek pair failed to start after their Olympic committee (HOC) earlier on Tuesday withdrew the entire synchronised swimming team from the Tokyo Games because of an outbreak of COVID-19.