Malaysia's darlings Katrina Ann Abdul Hadi and Zylane Lee, both 22, are on course for a duet gold medal in synchronised swimming after their opening-day performance at the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games yesterday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
The pair are in top spot after the duet technical final with a score of 75.3436, leaving host Singapore's two pairs in second (73.9705 points) and third (70.4160) place.
Katrina and Zylane, veterans from the 2011 SEA Games, beat their competitors in the areas of technical execution, artistic elements and overall impression.
"I think we performed very well today but this is only 50 per cent of the score," said Katrina, who nevertheless was cautious.
"We still have to get through the free routine preliminary tomorrow and the final on Thursday in order to secure the gold medal.
"We hope to do even better in the duet free routine tomorrow. Our goal was actually to score higher than a 75, because we're not just focusing on the SEA Games.
"We're also looking ahead to future competitions, like qualifying for next year's Olympic Games.
"So we're happy with our current score, but need to improve our performance even more."
Malaysia rule the sport in the region.
Katrina won a duet gold with a different partner the last time synchronised swimming featured at the SEA Games in 2011 in Indonesia, while Zylane was part of the Malaysian team that won gold two years ago.
According to Katrina, the Malaysians have concentrated more heavily on training for duet events over the past two years.
Half of the team are also new, having replaced those who retired after the 2011 SEA Games.
It could explain why Singapore surged ahead of the defending champions in the team technical final in the evening, coming in first with a score of 74.3445 to Malaysia's 72.3537.
The lead has fuelled Singapore's hopes of improving on the two silvers and one bronze they earned during the 2011 campaign.
Singapore will need to earn the top score again in the team free routine final today in order to secure the team gold medal with the highest combined score from both finals.
There are three gold medals on offer in synchronised swimming - for the duet technical and free routine event, team technical and free routine event and team free combination event.
"Our girls did their very best today," said Singapore team manager Jennice Yeong, 52.
"We're probably stronger as a team compared to the Malaysians as our girls have been training together for a very long time and the team are very close, so we have a higher chance of winning a team gold."
The Singapore team have been training six days a week for five hours per day, and are led by head coach Maryna Tsimashenka and assistant coach Katsiaryna Kulpo.
This article was first published on June 3, 2015.
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