Can you imagine running for up to five minutes while performing acrobatics, holding your breath, looking graceful and having to keep in time to the music or your fellow athletes? No? Well welcome to the world of synchronised swimming!
Synchronised Swimming used to be known as ‘water ballet’ and this is a good starting point to see the sport because routines are essentially athletic movements performed in water and choreographed to music.
However, Synchronised Swimming is also a very strenuous and skillful sport because competitors need strength and flexibility to perform the routines, as well as rhythm and flair to synchronise and interpret the music.
Synchronised Swimming is open to both male and female athletes but it is a sport dominated by women, mainly because the Olympic and World Championship competitions are not open to men.
Athletes perform routines that can be anything from two and a half minutes to five minutes long, depending on whether they perform alone or part of a team. The routines are made up of certain movements that are performed using certain basic positions.
Approximately two thirds of a synchronized swimming routine is performed under water.
There are four main categories of competition:
- Solos (where an individual swimmer will synchronise with the music).
- Duets (where a swimmer co-ordinates with their partner and in time to the music).
- Teams (where the swimmer co-ordinates with up to seven other athletes and in time to the music).
- Combo (a team routine where up to ten swimmers perform in one continuous routine but during the routine there will be segments where different numbers of swimmers will perform.
Teams normally contain eight swimmers, but the minimum number for a team is four. Teams lose marks for every swimmer they have under the full complement because it is easier to synchronise the less people there are in a routine!
Currently, only the duet and team competitions are included in the Olympic Games (although the Solo competition featured in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics)
In most senior competitions, swimmers will perform two routines for the judges, one technical and one free. The technical routine involves performing predetermined elements that must be executed in a specific order. The free routine has no requirements so the swimmers can be ‘free’ in how creative they get with the movements and their choreography.
There are also competitions called ‘Figures’ for junior swimmers where they perform set movements to the judges. There is no music and this is simply a case of how well the individual performs the movements.