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Puerto Rican Duet Gearing Up For Olympics; Pair Finishes Fourth In U.S. Championships

By Gene Guillot Staff writer

July 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

When Luna Aguilu and Leilani Torres of Puerto Rico finished 24th in the duet competition at the Olympic synchronized swimming qualifying meet in April, they believed they qualified for the Athens Games.

But they later learned that FINA, the international swimming federation, has a rule that says all continents participating in the trials must be represented in the Olympics. As a result, Egypt, representing Africa, and Australia were bumped ahead of the Puerto Rican duet, whose 24th-place finish was the last Olympic spot.

"It was sad because we trained so hard for that moment," Aguilu said. "Knowing that we made it to the Olympics but couldn't go, we were disappointed. But at the same time, we were satisfied because we actually qualified. We did accomplish what we were there for."

But two weeks ago the duet's fortunes changed when the duets from Great Britain and Germany dropped out of the Olympics. Aguilu and Torres received a fax that told them to pack their bags for Athens.

"We had lost hoped," Torres said. "(When we received the fax), our depression turned into screaming, smiling and crying at the same time. It was the best news we ever could get."

Since the duet had its plans in place for a trip to New Orleans, they decided to participate in the U.S. Open Synchronized Swimming Championships, which concluded Saturday at the UNO Aquatic Center.

Torres, who graduated from Ohio State, said the event prepared them for the Olympics but also cut into their practice time. The duet will leave for Athens on Aug. 15 to join Puerto Rico's 41 other Olympians.

In the U.S. Open duet competition, Aguilu and Torres finished fourth with 86 points. Tanya Matson and Jessica Outhwaite of Canada's National Team II won the event with 91.167 points. Two U.S. National Team II duets placed second and third.

The U.S. National Team II won the team competition with a score of 92.751 to beat Canada's 91.417 points. The Walnut Creek Aquanuts finished third with 86.667.

Kim Probst of the U.S. team won the solo event with 92.084 points, edging MariePier Boudreau Gagnon of Canada by .667 of a point. Houma's Rebecca Williams placed 12th with 76.667 points.

Aguilu, who graduated from Alabama-Birmingham, said she has been swimming with Torres in the duet for one year. Aguilu has been on the Puerto Rican national team since 1993; Torres made the team in 1989.

At the World Championships last year in Barcelona, Spain, the duet also finished 24th. Torres said they will use the same routine in Athens and hope to improve upon their recent finishes.

"We need to improve our height and precision of movements," Torres said. "Jadine Nimmo, a coach from Canada, will be helping us in Puerto Rico (before leaving for Athens)."

As for the experience of competing in the Olympics, Aguilu said she has not yet fully realized that she is an Olympian.

"It will probably set in as soon as I step on the plane," she said. "I'm still in shock. It's only been two weeks so I haven't had time to digest the news."

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