The Juneau Aurora Knights synchronized swimming duet of Koko Urata and Sarah Felix placed themselves among the best junior tandems in the world as they qualified for the U.S. Open finals Tuesday in San Diego, Cal.
Urata and Felix finished 10th out of 65 teams in the qualifying round to be eligible to participate in today's championship round.
The meet features teams from the United States, China, Japan and four other nations.
"I think Koko and I were a lot less nervous because there were so many different countries," Felix said. "You have the national teams here and everything so we were like, 'We'll have fun and see how we do.'"
The duo performed without their normal coach, Jami Eistetter, who was in Canada for a wedding.
The two also ran into a problem during their qualifying performance as their music quit halfway through their presentation.
But, like pretty much all sports, the duo performed until the whistle.
"You have to keep on swimming until [the judges] blow the whistle," Urata said. "We just went underwater when it happened and we knew they'd blow the whistle."
Following the musical malfunction, the duo had a choice - they could take the marks from their abbreviated performance or do the whole three-and-a-half minute show over again.
Felix and Urata chose the latter and ended up earning 10th place.
"It almost happens at every meet," Urata said "I see it happen and it's like, 'I would hate for that to happen to us.' Our coach makes us do a lot of swim-throughs, though, so we're used to it."
The international flavor of the competition made Tuesday's performance a special experience for the duo.
Both Urata and Felix spent time watching the Chinese and Japanese teams work out.
"They're really precise and they get everything right," Felix said. "If someone is an eighth of a second off they'll do it over again and again. Sometimes they'll let that slide in America and we won't do that over and over. The Chinese practiced the same move for 15-20 minutes."
The Chinese duet of Li Na and Han Ying sit in first place while the U.S. National Team is second.
With such top flight competition in the pool, Felix and Urata aren't worrying about taking the gold.
The duo from Juneau are just trying to perform to the best of their abilities.
"We're taking this meet real serious, but not trying to win or qualify so it's a little easier to not have to worry about it," Urata said. "So it's O.K. that our coach isn't here. We kind of do our own thing and ask each other advice.
"I tell Sarah what to do and she tells me and we give each other corrections. Our parents are on the side too, so it's kind of like we have more coaches in a way."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reaches at firstname.lastname@example.org
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