Thursday, June 14, 2012

KEEPING OLYMPIC DREAMS AFLOAT



If you grab onto a dream, it will change your life.

In the picture, these girls look like a crocheted doily, suspended in blue space. What they're doing is the fulfillment of a dream they've been dreaming for many, many years.

"Synchro" -- that's what synchronized swimming is called. I've been reading about various teams preparing for the tests and tryouts -- their goal -- a spot, a scheduled performance in the London Olympics.

While swimmer Michael Phelps, runner Usain Bolt, and other well-sponsored athletes, are training tirelessly, Synchro gets very little funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). The Synchro teams have to raise the money themselves to get there.

If this water sport is your dream, what's involved is years of training every day, eight hours a days seven days a week.

It's a story I know.

Throughout the world, little girls, age ten or even younger, fall in love with water sports -- inspired, perhaps, by something they saw in a movie, or in a photo. Maybe they saw one of the Esther Williams films, and got hooked.

It's marvelous -- to find something, love something, passionately, and want to learn everything there is to learn about it. (I was five when I decided I was going to be a ballerina.)

A synchro swimmer has to learn and perfect"sculls" (hand movements used to propel the body); "eggbeater kick"-- (treading water), "lifts" and being the "flyer," (the one who's lifted), " back & front layout," "sailboat/bent knee, ballet Leg" -- and more. There's a long list of advanced water skills, requiring endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry, precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control. And of course, the swimmer has to know about diet, mental preparation, and stretching. (I used to read, sitting on the floor in a front split -- split-stretching is PAINFUL.)

Money is involved -- money for classes, training, coaching, outfits, transportation to the pool, etc. With the cost of using the facilities, coaching and equipment, it can cost upwards of $300 a week or more.

Most swimmers work part-time -- baby sitting, sales clerking, waitressing, house cleaning, hostessing, (menial jobs because they've been so busy learning all there is to know about swimming), and quite often, they do swim shows, fitting all these activities around grade school and high school.

In April, Team USA, passed the qualification tests in London. In a few weeks we'll be watching them during the London Olympics. Having looked at quite a few videos, aside from applauding their precision, I realize now that every single move these swimmers make -- arms, legs, feet, fingers, head -- everything they do, is fantastically perfect.

Here they are practicing before they get into the swimming pool.


Here are Syncro swimmers performing.
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