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|Highest governing body||Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)|
|Olympic||Part of the Summer Olympic programme since 1984|
Synchronized swimming (often abbreviated to Synchro) is a hybrid form of swimming, dance and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers (either solos, duets, trios, combos, or teams) performing a synchronized routine of elaborate moves in the water, accompanied by music. Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater.
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. – Most European countries allow men to compete also, France even allows male only podiums, according to the number of participants. In the past decade more men are becoming involved in the sport and a global biannual competition called Men's Cup has been steadily growing.
Competitors show off their strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance required to perform difficult routines. Swimmers perform two routines for the judges, one technical and one free, as well as age group routines and figures.
Synchronized swimming is governed internationally by FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation).
At the turn of the 20th century, synchronized swimming was known as water ballet. The first recorded competition was in 1891 in Berlin, Germany. Many swim clubs were formed around that time, and the sport simultaneously developed within several countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the USA. As well as existing as a sport, it often constituted a popular addition to Music Hall evenings, in the larger variety theatres of London or Glasgow which were equipped with huge on-stage water tanks for the purpose.
In 1907, Australian Annette Kellerman popularized the sport when she performed in a glass tank as an underwater ballerina in the New York Hippodrome. After experimenting with various diving actions and stunts in the water, Katherine Curtis started one of the first water ballet clubs at the University of Chicago, where the team began executing strokes, "tricks," and floating formations. On May 27, 1939, the first U.S. synchronized swimming competition took place at Wright Junior College between Wright and the Chicago Teachers' College.
In 1924, the first competition in North America was in Montreal, with Peg Seller as the first champion.
Other important pioneers for the sport are Beulah Gundling, Käthe Jacobi, Marion Kane Elston, Dawn Bean, Billie MacKellar, Teresa Anderson, Gail Johnson, Gail Emery, Charlotte Davis, Mary Derosier, Norma Olsen and Clark Leach. Charlotte Davis coached Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie, who won the gold medal in duet synchronized swimming at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
In 1933–1934 Kathryn Curtis organized a show, "The Modern Mermaids," for the World Exhibition in Chicago, which the announcer introduced as "Synchronized Swimming." This was the first mentioning of the term synchronized swimming, although Curtis still used the term rhythmic swimming in her book, Rhythmic Swimming: A Source Book of Synchronized Swimming and Water Pageantry (Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co., 1936). See a photo of Motherwell's Rhythmic Swimming Display, 1946.
But it was National AAU champion swimmer, Esther Williams, who popularized synchronized swimming through (often elaborately staged) scenes in Hollywood films such as Bathing Beauty (1944), Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), and Jupiter's Darling (1955). In the 1970s and 80s, Ft. Lauderdale swimming champion Charkie Phillips revived water ballet on television with The Krofftettes in The Brady Bunch Hour (1976–77), NBC's The Big Show (1980), and then on screen with Miss Piggy in The Great Muppet Caper (1981).
Synchro as an Olympic sport 
Although first demonstrated at the 1952 Olympic Games, synchronized swimming did not become an official Olympic sport until the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. It was not until 1968 that synchronized swimming became officially recognized by FINA as the fourth water sport next to swimming, platform diving and water polo.
From 1984 through 1992, the Summer Olympic Games featured solo and duet competitions, but they both were dropped in 1996 in favor of team competition. At the 2000 Olympic Games, however, the duet competition was restored and is now featured alongside the team competition.
Basic skills 
Sculls (hand movements used to propel the body) are the most essential part to synchronized swimming. Commonly used sculls include support scull, standard scull, torpedo scull, split-arm scull, barrel scull, and paddle scull. The support scull is used most often to support the body while a swimmer is performing upside down. Support scull is performed by holding the upper arms against the sides of the body and the lower arms at 90-degree angles to the body. The lower arms are then moved back and forth while maintaining the right angle. The resulting pressure against the hands allows the swimmer to hold their legs above water while swimming. Other sculls used in training include propeller and reverse propeller.
The "eggbeater kick" is another important skill of synchronized swimming. It is a form of treading water that allows for stability and height above the water while leaving the hands free to perform strokes. An average eggbeater height is usually around chest level. Using the eggbeater, swimmers can also perform "boosts", where they use their legs to momentarily propel themselves out of the water to their hips or higher. "Eggbeater" is also a common movement found in water polo as well as the "pop-up" movement. Eggbeating for a considerable period is also referred to as an "aquabob" and is used to build propulsion under water prior to a boost or pop-up.
A lift is when members of the team use their feet and legs to propel their teammates relatively high out of the water. They are quite common in routines of the older age groups.
Parts of a successful Lift 
There are three separate parts to every lift in synchronized swimming: The top (or "flyer"), the base, and the pushers.
- The Flyer The flyer is usually the smallest member of the team. Flyers must be agile and flexible, with a preferable gymnastics background if they are jumping off the lift.
- The Base The base also tends to be relatively small. She should have good leg strength and a solid core. (when performing a platform lift, a strong core is essential)
- The Pushers The pushers are usually the bigger, stronger members of the team and should be evenly spaced around the lift.
Types of Lifts 
- Platform Lift:
The platform lift is the oldest form of lift. In a platform, the base lays out in a back layout position underwater. The top sets in a squatting position on her torso, and stands once the lift reaches the surface. The remaining teammates use eggbeater to hold both the platform and the top out of the water.
- Stack Lift:
A more modern version of the platform. The base sets up in a squatting position a few feet underwater, with the pushers holding her legs and feet. The top then climbs onto the shoulders of the base. As the lift rises, pushers extend their arms while both the base and top extend their legs to achieve maximum height. A common addition to a stack lift is a rotation while it descends.
A throw lift is set up exactly like a stack lift. However, when the lift reaches its full height, the "flyer" on top of the lift will jump off of her teammate's shoulders, usually performing some sort of acrobatic movement or position. This is a very difficult lift, and should only be attempted by experienced swimmers.
There are hundreds of different regular positions that can be used to create seemingly infinite combinations. These are a few basic and commonly used ones:
- Back Layout: The most basic position. The body floats, completely straight and rigid, face-up on the surface while sculling under the hips.
- Front Layout: Much like a Back Layout, the only difference is that the swimmer is on his/her stomach and breathing.
- Sailboat/Bent Knee: Similar to the back layout, but one knee is bent with the toe touching the inside of the other leg, which remains parallel to the surface.
- Ballet Leg: Beginning in a back layout, one leg is extended and held perpendicular to the body, while the other is held parallel to the surface of the water.
- Flamingo: Similar to ballet leg position where bottom leg is pulled into the chest so that the shin of the bottom leg is touching the knee of the vertical leg.
- Vertical: Achieved by holding the body completely straight upside down and perpendicular to the surface usually with both legs entirely out of water.
- Crane: While holding a vertical body position, one leg remains vertical while the other is dropped parallel to the surface, making a 90-degree angle or "L" shape.
- Bent Knee: While holding a vertical body position, one leg remains vertical while the other leg bends so that its toe is touching the knee of the vertical leg.
- Split position: With the body vertical, one leg is stretched forward along the surface and the other extended back along the surface.
- Knight: The body is in a surface arch position, where the legs are flat on the surface, and the body is arched so that the head is vertically in line with the hips. One leg is lifted, creating a vertical line perpendicular to the surface.
- Side Fishtail: Side fishtail is a position similar to a crane. One leg remains vertical, while the other is extended out to the side parallel to the water, creating a side "Y" position.
- side "Y": – this is used in catalina (tier 6 and 7 figure)
Tub: Both legs are pulled up to the chest. Further descriptions of technical positions can be found on the International Olympic Committee website.
Routines are composed of "hybrids" (leg movements) and arm or stroke sections. They often incorporate lifts or throws, an impressive move in which a group of swimmers lift or throw another swimmer out of the water. 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 with the arms, and eggbeater kick to keep afloat. After the performance, the swimmers are judged and scored on their performance based on technical merit and artistic impression. Technical skill, patterns, expression, and synchronization are all critical to achieving a high score.
Technical vs. free routines 
Depending on the competition level, swimmers will perform a "technical" routine with predetermined elements that must be performed in a specific order. The technical routine acts as a replacement for the figure event, and is usually used only in senior and collegiate level meets. In addition to the technical routine, the swimmers will perform a longer "free" routine, which has no requirements and is a chance for the swimmers to get creative and innovative with their choreography.
Length of routines 
The type of routine and competition level determines the length of routines. Routines typically last two and a half to five minutes long, the shortest being solos, with length added as the number of swimmers are increased (duets, trios, teams, and combos). Age and skill level are other important factors in determining the required routine length.
Routines are scored on a scale of 100, with points for both artistic impression and technical merit. The artistic mark is worth 50% of the total and the technical mark is worth 50%.
When performing routines in competition and practice, competitors will typically wear a rubber noseclip to keep water from entering their nose when submerged. Some swimmers wear ear-plugs to keep the water out of their ears. Hair is worn in a bun and flavorless gelatin, Knox, is applied to keep hair in place, and a decorative headpiece is bobby pinned to the bun. Competitors also wear custom swimsuits and headpieces, usually elaborately decorated with bright fabric and sequins to reflect the type of music to which they are swimming. The costume and music are not judged (but marks will be taken off if the headpiece falls off any swimmer while he/she is swimming the routine), but factor into the overall performance and "artistic impression". Heavy eye make-up is often worn to help portray the emotions involved with the routine; it helps to accentuate the eyes of each individual swimmer. Lipstick is often used, and many teams see fit to smear some on their cheeks for a very vibrant and water-resistant blush. Underwater speakers ensure that swimmers can hear the music at all times and also aid their ability to synchronize with each other. Routines are prepared and set to counts in the music, to further ensure synchronization. Coaches also use underwater speakers to communicate with the swimmers during practice. Goggles, though worn during practice, are not permitted during routine competition, though exceptions can be made if a swimmer has a chlorine allergy.
||The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the English-speaking world and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (February 2011)|
A standard meet begins with the swimmers doing "figures", which are positions performed individually without music. All swimmers must compete wearing the standard black swimsuit and white swimcap, as well as goggles and a noseclip. Figures are performed in front of a panel of 5 judges who score individual swimmers from 1 to 10 (10 being the best). After the figure competition, the routines begin.
In the United States 
In the United States, competitors are divided into groups by age. The seven age groups are: 10 and Under, 11–12, 13–15, 16–17, 18–19, Junior (elite 15–18), Senior (elite 18+), Collegiate, and Master. In addition to these groups, younger swimmers may be divided by ability into 3 levels: Novice, Intermediate, and Age Group. Seasons range in length, and some swimmers participate year-round in competitions. There are many levels of competition, including but not limited to: State, Regional, Zone, Age Group National, and US Junior and Senior Opens. Each swimmer may compete in up to three of the following routine events: solo, duet, trio, combo (consisting of eight to ten swimmers), and team (consisting of four to eight swimmers). Figure scores are combined with routines to determine the final rankings. USA Synchro's annual intercollegiate championships have been dominated by The Ohio State University, Stanford University, and The University of the Incarnate Word.
In Canada 
In Canada, synchronized swimming has an age-based Structure system as of 2010 with age groups 8 & under to 16 & over for the provincial levels. There is also a skill level which is 13-15 and juniors (16-18) known as national stream, as well as competition at the Masters and University levels. 13-15 age group and 16-18 age group are national stream athletes that fall in line with international age groups – 15 and Under and Junior (16–18) and Senior (18+) level athletes. There are also the Wildrose age group . This is for competitors before they reach 13-15 national stream. Wildrose ranges from Tier 8 and under to 16 and over provincial/wildrose. These are also competitive levels. There are also the recreational levels which are called "stars". Synchro Canada requires that a competitor must pass Star 3 before entering Tier 1. To get into a Tier a swimmer must take a test for that Tier. In these tests, the swimmer must be able to perform the required movements for the level.
In the United kingdom 
In the UK, competitions include county level, regional level through to the national age group competition usually held towards the end of the year. Competitors are split by age group, 12 and under/ 13-14/15,16,17/18+ /and 19 and under. To compete in the competitive strand of competitions swimmers must hold the required skill level for their age group. Recreational strands of competitions are also present to allow those competitors who have not achieved the desired level. Swimmers compete through figures, duets, teams and combination routines.
See also 
- Clark Leach, Father of Synchronized Swimming. *S.S Scrapbooks (1950s), Henning Library, ISHOF, 1941.
- Dawn Pawson Bean: Synchronized swimming - An American history.(E-Book) McFarland Company Inc. Publishers, Jefferson (North Carolina, USA), 2005. Contains information about Donn Squire and Bert Hubbard on page 51.
- Becky Maltby (October/November 2007). "Into the Blue". Hana Hou! Vol. 10 No. 5.
- USA Synchro United States Synchronized Swimming (USSS)
- Synchronized Swimming Canada (Canada)
- Great Britain National Team
- Go Synchro! -Further information on synchronized swimming, including pictures. Also has the history of the sport in Australia and includes contact details for Australian clubs
- "Sync or Swim" Documentary film about synchronized swimming
- Colorado Time Systems
- Synchronized Swimming Western Australia
- International Swimming Hall of Fame, Marion Kane award summary
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