Thursday, June 14, 2012


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.


Jonathan Gunson - Writer. Illustrator. said...

Inspiring yes. :) Jonathan.

PS. This blog will like a garden grow. Keep it up Em.

Ameer S. Washington said...

I've always marveled at synchronized swimming. Treading water was hard enough at my local Boys & Girls Clubs to pass my deep water test as a kid. I only had to do it for a minute. So I always kind of knew the rigors of what when into Synchro. And just seeing it, there has to be some severe technical aspects of it. I surely wouldn't want to be in there for 8 hours treading water.

The sad but true part is, as graceful, as beautiful, and as artful as it is, this Synchro. It's not nearly exciting enough to get huge financial backing. Without the advent of a double camera shot, it's difficult to see what's going under water at all times. The fact that there's no superstar to help propel the sport makes it more difficult. Michael Phelps propels swimming because of his success, so more people want to be race swimmers, but who could we really name in Synchro that makes us want to do it other than our own hearts.

If I had a some millions or billions I'd pick up the tab. It's intense, great excise, and I'm sure fun at times.

Peggy Bechko said...

What a great post, Em and a great clip on Syncro swimmers. Amazing what the Olympians are willing to do to follow their dreams. An inspiration to us all.

Anonymous said...

Syncro swimming is so beautiful and exciting to watch. I am looking forward to the Olympics and cheering the USA on! I enjoyed the videos and behind the scenes with syncro swimming-so much hard work and skill goes into this feat. Thanks for sharing all the info Em! kam

Maureen Jacobs said...

Love this... One of my favourite events. I look forward to London 2012. My boys already have their London tshirts.

Looking forward to more posts. Love u Em.