Rio_free prelims_2016Montreal’s Jacqueline Simoneau, 19 and Gatineau’s Karine Thomas27began their Olympic Synchronized Duet competition today in Rio, Brazil with the Free Routine Preliminary.

In the first round of the three-stage competition, the duo exhibited their trademark power, passion and creativity while swimming their ‘Heartbreak’ routine. Their overall score of 90.0667 has them sitting in 7thposition with the Technical Routine to come on Monday and the Final Round Free Routine on Tuesday. With 24 duets in the competition, the field is narrowed down to 12 for the third and final phase of the event.

Simoneau, competing in her first Olympic Games, and Thomas, competing in her second, were one of the few teams to use vocals as they swam to the haunting composition “Tore my Heart” by the contemporary artist OONA. The routine drew the large and appreciative crowd into the emotional performance as the two executed their difficult technical elements.

The top 7 teams, including the Canadians, all scored above 90 points. Simoneau and Thomas’ scores for Execution – 26.8000, Artistic Impression – 35.8667, and Difficulty – 27.4000, combined for an overall score of 90.0667. The Russian duet leads the competition with a score of 98.0667, with China in second place at 96.0667 and Japan in third at 94.4000. The other teams ahead of Canada are Spain (4th), Ukraine (5th), and Italy (6th).

The Canadian pair has been away from home since mid-July after competing in Riverside, California and then three weeks at a training camp in Boca Raton, Florida, before arriving in Rio last Tuesday.  Thomas is enjoying this opportunity to compete as a duet, finding the energy different than when she was in London as a member of the team in 2012. Simoneau is thrilled to be surrounded by the best athletes in the world, and is proud to be representing Canada in Rio.

Head Coach Meng Chen feels the two athletes are well prepared for this event. “We had a really great training camp in Florida where they did every little thing we asked them to do. The whole energy was very positive.”

They made a few adjustments as they swam today. “It was our first time swimming in this Olympic pool after the new water was transferred in and with the sun beating in our faces,” said Simoneau.  Added Thomas, “It was good to get the jitters out of the way and show our best for the Games.” She is “super excited about how things are going and only looking forward to do our best.”

Simoneau says tomorrow’s technical routine is a strong point and shows off the best of the Canadian team. “We have a lot of technical difficulty in our routine on top of the elements that are required. We’re excited to show off a routine that we’re really confident in and know that we’re good at.”

Coach Chen’s focus now is to put today’s solid start behind them and get the two ready for the next important part of the event. “We are going to refocus again for tomorrow’s competition. They have more amazing skills to show. They are super high in the water, and we are looking forward to the next two days to show more of their best.”

All 24 teams continue to Monday’s Technical Routine where they will each perform required elements in a prescribed order. Scores from the Free Routine Preliminary and the Technical Routine are then added together, with the top 12 duets advancing to the final. The Free Routine Preliminary score is then dropped, and only the Technical Routine carries over. It is added to the Free Routine score to determine final placements.