Smile when your lungs are aching, smile when your heart is breaking

Ryan Remiorz/CP

Synchronized swimming is one of the rare smiling sports at these the London 2012 Summer Games, which are usually more about pant, sweat, grimace and grunt. Smile when you win, smile when you lose; smile at the judges and pray they didn’t decide the results two weeks ago over dinner.

There was Canada’s all-Quebec synchro team after a stellar, acrobatic performance Friday, smiling in their beaded, neon-hued swimsuits and their waterproof makeup, excited and proud that they’d given their all in a joyous, technically demanding program.

They’d been in fourth Thursday after their technical routine. Their free routine Friday, inspired by Cirque du Soleil, moved them to first, but they must have known, standing in a nervous pack in the bowels of the Aquatic Centre, that it wouldn’t last. The judges had left plenty of point room for the powerhouses of the sport who had yet to perform.

In the end, to the surprise of no one, there was no change from Thursday. Russia won the gold, as Russia does—the fourth consecutive team Olympic gold and sixth straight overall gold. China finished second, with Spain taking bronze. It would have required an epic failure by one of the top teams to get the judges to move Canada beyond the fourth it held Thursday and the fourth it finished in Beijing. That didn’t happen.

Tracy Little, one of the nine-person Canadian crew, said afterwards that she was “pretty down” after the fourth-place ranking Thursday. The team awoke Friday, determined to make this “a good Olympic moment,” come what may. She thinks they delivered that in the pool. “I didn’t care what the scores were for the first time in my synchro career,” she said.

Whether the judges ever move the team beyond fourth is not something the swimmers can control, she said. “If we swim perfect or not, who knows if they’re going to give us the same marks?” She only knows how hard they worked to deliver in that pool. “They can’t take that away from us. This moment of being proud right now, no matter what I finish I’m going to have this forever.” She said that, of course, with a smile.