Svetlana Romashina wants to make artistic swimming the new figure skating
Svetlana Romashina is back.
The 29-year-old returned to competition in Kazan last Friday for the first time since taking her tally to five Olympic artistic swimming gold medals at Rio 2016.
And she and new partner Svetlana Kolesnichenko took victory in the duet technical and duet free events at the three-day gala.
Romashina said after her winning return, "I think it's great it happened in Kazan as my mother had a chance to be here and watch it with her own eyes. I was not that nervous anticipating the start, no more than usual.
"Are we satisfied with the swim? Yes, we are, if our coach is." - Svetlana Romashina speaking after her duet technical victory in Kazan
That came after Kolesnichenko, a 13-time world champion and team gold medallist in Rio, took victory in the solo technical.
Romashina won her first world title as a 15-year-old at the Montreal 2005 World Championships and was a member of the victorious Russian team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
At the 2009 World Championships in Rome, she teamed up with four-time Olympic champion Anastasiya Davydova for gold in the duet technical, and with solo world champion Ischchenko for victory in the duet free.
But Ishchenko soon displaced Davydova in the technical event and she and Romashina proceeded to spearhead Russia's domination of the sport.
At London 2012, Romashina and Ishchenko took the two titles on offer in the duet and the team where Davydova won a record fifth gold before announcing her retirement.
When Ishchenko took time out to have a baby in 2013, Kolesnichenko deputised in the duet with Romashina stepping up to the solo at the Barcelona World Championships as Russia claimed a third consecutive sweep of golds.
But Ishchenko made a seamless return and, after dominating at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, the pair retained their Olympic titles at Rio 2016.
Russian pair win Synchronised Swimming gold
Russian pair win Synchronised Swimming goldNatalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina win gold for Russia in the women's synchronised swimming duets final.
Records and legacy
Romashina's return means she can become the most successful artistic swimmer of all time.
But she also wants to raise the profile of her sport in Russia, perhaps attracting some of figure skating's huge following.
Talking to NevaSport.ru, she said, "The whole country know the figure skating girls. It's Medvedeva, Zagitova, Tuktamysheva. Figure skating, figure skating, figure skating!
"I hope artistic swimmers can become as popular as them. I wish people discussed our sport as much as figure skating." - Svetlana Romashina talking to NevaSport.ru
She also caused a stir on social media when she claimed that younger skaters do not have the artistry of their elder contemporaries.
"What can I say: I have my own opinion, and I have the right to express it. A lot of people pointed out that I competed at the World Championships when I was only 15 years old... but they do not understand that these are very different sports.
"Now I can confidently say that at the moment I am much stronger than I was at 15. As far as I understand, in figure skating this is very difficult to achieve the same."
With 18 world titles already to her name, she can overtake Ishchenko's record of 19 in Gwangju, South Korea, in July.
And, of course, another gold in Tokyo would see her become the most successful Olympic artistic swimmer in history.
Romashina took an indefinite break after Rio which was interpreted by many as her retirement.
But Russian media reported she still had ambitions of competing in a fourth Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.
Like former partner Ishchenko, she took a maternity break and had a girl in November 2017, exactly four years and one day after Ishchenko gave birth.
And right up until the last days of her pregnancy, she was determined to stay active.
In her absence, Kolesnichenko had assumed the lead role in the formidable Russian team.
She claimed four golds - solo technical and free, and duet technical and free - at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest.
Kolesnichenko followed up with success in the same events at the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow in August.
The day after the end of competition in Scotland, Romashina announced that she would make her comeback in 2019.
Take a deep breath! Russian star Svetlana Romashina comes out of retirement
"Stronger" after childbirth
Speaking last week ahead of her return in Kazan, Romashina says she is in better shape than ever.
She told Rsport.ru: "What I've realised is that after giving birth, a woman's body becomes even stronger than it was before. Previously, I did not imagine that I would be able to go through this insane amount of training again."
On announcing her comeback last year, Romashina said, "I was so glad to just leave the house after sitting there for 10 months.
"Honestly, I realised that I am just not done with swimming yet." - Svetlana Romashina speaking to Rsport.ru
"The difficult part is for me to leave my child when I go to compete. When I come back from training, I want to relax, to lie down, but I can't as I have to do my other job, the job of being a mother."