Synchronized swimming

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A hybrid of swimming, gymnastics, and ballet, synchronized swimming involves competitors (either individuals, duets, trios or teams) combining strength, endurance, flexibility, grace and artistry with exceptional breath control while upside down underwater.

Synchronized swimming is an Olympic sport open to women since 1984. Olympic and World Championship competition is not open to men, but other international and National competitions allow male competitors. Both USA Synchro and Synchro Canada allow men to compete with women.

Competitors point to the strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance required to perform difficult routines.

Synchronized Swimming is governed internationally by FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur). All official Synchronized Swimming rules are available at


[edit] History

While there is evidence of swimmers performing ballet-like maneuvers in the water in ancient times, the origin of synchronized swimming as an organized, competitive sport dates to the early 20th century. In the 1920s, a group of Canadian women, led by water polo player and diver Margaret Sellers, developed what they called 'ornamental swimming' from life saving and swimming techniques.

In 1907, Australian, Annette Kellerman, performing in a glass tank, had attracted national attention at the New York Hippodrome as the first underwater ballerina. Katherine Curtis, a student at the University of Wisconsin, experimented with diving actions and stunts in the water in 1915. Curtis started a water ballet club at the University of Chicago, called the Modern Mermaids, in 1923 and later performed in the lagoon at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago. The display at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair drew rave reviews.

Kellerman was an inspiration to a woman who would become a Hollywood phenomenon: Esther Williams, U.S. freestyle champion and Olympic contender, portrayed Kellerman's life in the musical Million Dollar Mermaid. She also performed in a string of MGM "aqua musicals" in the 1940s and '50s, which inspired young girls everywhere to begin learning synchronized swimming.

Over the next 20 years the sport grew, became very technical and athletic, music was added to the routines, and the name changed to "synchronized swimming". In 1960, after a world tour, U.S. swimmers demonstrated the sport at the Olympic Games in Rome. Synchronized swimming became an Olympic Sport in 1984 with solo and duet competition. Only duets (2 swimmers) and teams (8 swimmers) currently compete at the Olympic Games. The US is the only country, internationally, that competes trios (3 swimmers) at a national level.

[edit] Preparation

When performing routines, competitors will typically wear a noseclip. Hair is worn in a bun on the head and gelatin is use to keep hair in place. Goggles are not worn because they are considered distracting and take away from the artistic beauty of the routine. Competitors also wear custom swimsuits and headpieces, usually elaborately decorated, to reflect the type of music to which they are swimming. The costume and music are not judged directly, but factor into the overall performance and artistic impression.

[edit] Levels of competition

In the United States the competitions are divided into the following age groups: Collegiate, Juniors, Seniors, and Masters. Within each competition there are different levels determined by age, point score or affiliation (ex: novice, intermediate, age group, junior (14 and up), senior, varsity, club, master, etc. Individual swimmers may compete in up to three events, solo, duet, trio, and team (4-8 swimmers, with points being deducted for less than 8 swimmers). Swimmers also compete in individual figures and technical elements, which in some levels of competition are sometimes factored in with routine scores. Also, competition rules may limit the number of events that each team can participate in. Visit the USA Synchro website at for more information.

In Canada synchronized swimming has a skill-based Tier Structure system with Tiers 1-7 as well as competition at the Masters and University levels. Tier 6 and 7 are national stream athletes that fall in line with international age groups - Tier 6 is 15 and Under and Tier 7 is Junior (15-18) and Senior (18+) level athletes. There are also tiers 8 & 9 which are for the disabled. For information on synchronized swimming in Canada visit For information on synchronized swimming in the province of Ontario visit For information on synchronized swimming at the University level visit

[edit] Routine

In competitions swimmers have to do routines. This routines are composed of "highlights", figures, and arm sections. The swimmers are graded on their performance based on technical merit and artistic impression. In a technical routine swimmers are required to perform "routine elements" in their routine. These elements are different for junior and senior competitions. The free routine does not have any required elements and is put together by the swimmer(s) and coaches. Routine can also have lifts or throws, in which a group of swimmers lift or throw another swimmer out of the water.

The type of routine and competition level determine the length of routines. Routines typically last two and a half to five minutes long in either solos, duets, trios, or teams, with solos being the shortest and teams being the longest. Swimmers are synchronized both to each other and to the music. During a routine swimmers can never use the bottom of the pool for support, but rather depend on sculling motions, and eggbeater kick to keep afloat.

Routines are scored on a scale of 10, with points for both artistic impression and technical merit. In some competitions, routines are required to have specific technical elements performed in a pre-determined order, much like figure skating. Athletes may also compete individually, performing technical elements in front of a panel of judges. Depending on the competition level, the swimmers will perform a free routine (no specific choreography requirement)and either a technical routine (with predetermined elements) or figures (a sequence of positions performed individually in from on a panel of judges.)

A new category has recently been incorporated into international Synchronized swimming called the Combo Routine. Up to 10 swimmers compete a single continuous routine with 2 segments of team (8 swimmers), 2 segments of duet and 2 segments of solo (1 swimmer) while the additional swimmers swim off to the side and tread water without touching the side or bottom of the pool. It is up to the discretion of the coach to determine the combinations of swimmers who will swim. For example, a single swimmer may compete in both duet segments with two different partners or a swimmer may perform just a single solo segment. This event is new but is gaining popularity with teams and audiences on an international level.

[edit] External links

  • Go Synchro! -Further information on synchronised swimming, including pictures. Also has the history of the sport in Australia and includes contact details for Australian clubs
  • USA Synchro -United States Synchronized Swimming (USSS)

ca:Natació sincronitzada da:Synkronsvømmning de:Synchronschwimmen et:Kujundujumine fr:Natation synchronisée ko:싱크로나이즈드 스위밍 it:Nuoto sincronizzato nl:Synchroonzwemmen ja:シンクロナイズドスイミング pl:Pływanie synchroniczne pt:Natação sincronizada fi:Taitouinti sv:Konstsim zh:花样游泳

Synchronized swimming

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