Synchronized swimming (“synchro”) is a unique sport in which power, strength and technical skill are presented as an artistically beautiful choreographed routine. Overall body strength and agility, grace and beauty, split-second timing, and musical interpretation are simultaneously blended together to create a fluid presentation. The competition rules and the manner of judging are similar those in figure skating and gymnastics.
Ever since synchro began in the early 1900s, spectators have been awed by the grace and power of this exciting sport. The first U.S. National Championships were held in 1946. Synchronized swimming became a part of the Pan American Games in 1955 and the World Aquatic Championships in 1973. In 1984, synchronized swimming was finally added to the Olympic Games. This event is expected to be a crowd favorite yet again at Rio 2016.
For more information about the United States National Teams, upcoming events and results, see the US National Team page.
Health Benefits of Synchro
Synchronized swimming is a physically demanding sport that tests the athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic endurance, strength, and flexibility. It is also an extremely cerebral sport, requiring memorization of routines, a heightened kinesthetic awareness, and concentration.
The July 2012 edition of The Winged M (p. 68), a publication of the Multnomah Athletic Club which itself has an outstanding synchro team, cites a study by the Indiana University Department of Kinesiology that concluded: “Synchro workouts rely on the brain’s neuro-plasticity: its ability to change and adapt.” According to the research, synchro improves brain – neuron connectivity and helps preserve the reaction time between the brain and the muscles well into the adult senior years.
All in all, it’s a great all-around sport for both the young and the old.
It Just LOOKS Easy!
The most important piece of equipment for synchronized swimmers is the nose clip. This insignificant-looking swimming aid is critical as it prevent water from entering the nasal cavity during an upside-down performance. A synchro swimmer always carries an extra nose clip in her suit in case the one she is wearing gets knocked off during a routine.
For lack of a better product, dissolved unflavored gelatin (Knox), is used to keep a synchronized swimmer’s hair in place while she is spinning upside down and moving throughout the pool. It also makes all the swimmers of the team appear similar.
The sequined suits the athletes wear are also meant to enhance the performances. Make-up brings out the swimmer’s features and the constant smile seen on a swimmer’s face is meant to deceive the audience into believing that the performance is easy.
An underwater speaker lets the athletes hear the music clearly, helping them achieve split-second timing critical to synchronized swimming.
A lift is done by raising the body of one or more swimmers up to or above the surface of the water. Swimmers execute lifts with only their body strength and are not allowed to use the bottom of the pool — EVER.
In a five minute routine, athletes might spend up to one minute underwater without air while simultaneously using their arms and legs to suspend themselves above water. The effort can be compared to running without taking a breath for up to 30 seconds.
The grace and ease with which the athletes perform come after hours of practice. While Olympic/elite level synchro swimmers may spend as much as 40 hours a week in the pool, they spend another 8-10 hours cross-training for strength and endurance and stretching for flexibility. A typical youth competitive team spends about 9-12 hours per week stretching, doing cardio on land, swimming laps, working on compulsory figures and practicing routines.
Finally, binding all these different aspects together are the friendships and camaraderie the team members share as they support one another figuratively and literally in this unique sport. Team members rely on one another for many things, from complex lifts and formations, to Knox-ing hair and putting on make-up. Veteran swimmers mentor younger ones and even at meets, competing teams show courtesy and respect for one another.