What is Synchro?

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Sync or Swim — The Need-to-Know

  1. It’s “synchro.” Synchronized swimming — called “synchro” by those in the know — is a blend of meticulously coordinated acrobatics, swimming, and dance. Synchro requires tremendous grace, core strength, flexibility, breath control, split-second timing, and endurance. Don’t be deceived by the glitzy performance and lipsticked smiles on the athletes’ faces — this sport is anything but easy.
  2. Ballet, no more. Synchro began as “water ballet” in the late 19th century. It was later introduced to the US by the glass tank performer Annette Kellerman. The sport was further pioneered by Katherine Curtis, who fine-tuned the water acrobatics. Though official competitions launched in the 1930’s, synchro was not included in the Olympics until the 1984 Los Angeles Games, displacing women’s softball.
  3. Men need not apply – until now. In the 2012 Olympics, synchronized swimming was one of the two female-only sports. (Rhythmic gymnastics was the other.) Since then, a mixed duet category has been added
  4. There’s technique, and then there’s the creative part. There are two parts to a synchro competition. First is figures: athletes compete individually, executing 4 prescribed sets of  transitions and positions. Next is the team competition, where a team performs a routine set to music that the swimmers can hear underwater, thanks to underwater speakers.
  5. Check out the deck! Before every routine, swimmers have ten seconds for deckwork, or the choreographed movements that unfold poolside before the athletes elegantly enter the water. Though deckwork does not gain teams any points, it does set the mood for the routine. Once in the water, swimmers are confined to a 12 meter-by-12 meter competition area that is at least nine feet deep and hovers at just about 26 degrees Celsius (or about 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
  6. No touching! The pool bottom is off-limits during performances. Instead, synchro swimmers must continuously tread water in an eggbeater fashion to free up the arms and make the illusion that they are comfortably standing. Touching the bottom results in a two point deduction.
  7. Open wide. Synchro swimmers keep their eyes on the prize — even underwater — where they stay wide-eyed to better navigate the sub-surface elements of the routine. While goggles are forbidden, nose clips are a-OK. Most swimmers opt for nose clips to help with holding their breath. (Ahem, you try treading water upside down!), and many keep a spare pair tucked away in their suits. Some swimmers can hold their breath for more than three minutes, but most synchro routines require no more than one minute of continuous breath-holding.
  8. Cover up. No string bikinis or tankinis allowed. FINA (the international aquatics federation) rules require that swimsuits be of “good moral taste” (read: not transparent or skimpy) and suit design typically complements the music selection — no patent leather suits paired with Beethoven’s first symphony!
  9. This takes strength — lots of it. Synchro routines incorporate a series of twists, pointed toes, splits, lifts and more. Some well-known positions include the fishtail, ballet leg, aurora, flamingo, and split positions.  And don’t forget — when teammates lift one another, they are not touching the pool bottom! Talk about core strength.
  10. Practice, practice, practice. Synchronized swimmers practice more than most other Olympic athletes. They spend six days per week honing their craft, and upwards of eight hours per day: six in the pool (imagine the pruney fingers), and two hours on land cross training.
  11. Time to get slick. Most fresh-out-of-the-pool hairstyles resemble that of tousled wet dogs. This is not the case for synchronized swimmers, who prep by slicking back their hair using Knox gelatin, which is made of horse cartilage (redefining the meaning of ponytail…). This equine pomade keeps the wispies at bay during the competition, and only melts away after a hot shower.
  12. All that glitters is gold. Competitors add waterproof makeup to ensure that judges can see their expressive faces throughout the performance, cashing in on presentation points. Though the make-up’s intensity is frightening up close, it surely accentuates the swimmers’ emotive features in the water.

Adapted from “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Synchronized Swimming”

The Toughest Underwater Show on Earth

For a great look at synchronized swimming in Canada today, go to “The Toughest Underwater Show on Earth.”

 

Synchro in BC

Check out Synchro BC’s video starring athletes from around our province: