Synchronized swimming
Synchronized swImming is a hybrid form of swimming
Swimming (sport)
Swimming is a sport governed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation .-History: Competitive swimming in Europe began around 1800 BCE, mostly in the form of the freestyle. In 1873 Steve Bowyer introduced the trudgen to Western swimming competitions, after copying the front crawl used by Native...

, dance and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers (either solos, duets, trios, 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
Men's Cup
Men's Cup is a global biannual synchro competition for male competitors Men's CUP established in Prague , with further incarnations in Stockholm and in Milan . Dutch club for aquatic sports Upstream Amsterdam is to organize the 4th Men's Cup Synchronized Swimming Tournament 2011 in Amsterdam...

 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
Fina may refer to:*Fina, a character in the Skies of Arcadia video game*FINA, the International Swimming Federation*FINA, the North American Forum on Integration...

 (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.

While exclusively a sport performed by men in its first days, it quickly became a women's sport because the nature of the physical movements are more suitable to the female physique (i.e. center of gravity). In 1907, Australian Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman
Annette Marie Sarah Kellerman was an Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville and film star, and writer...

 popularised 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
Beulah Gundling
Beulah Gundling Inducted at the very first induction into the Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965. Beulah Gundling was the first US solo champion synchronized swimmer in 1950. A serious competitor, she designed her own costumes and arranged the music. In 1952 she demonstrated the sport at the Helsinki...

, Käthe Jacobi, Marion Kane Elston, Dawn Bean, Billie MacKellar, Teresa Anderson and Gail Johnson. Many of the competitions in those days were still done in lakes and rivers.

Sara Quin, of Tegan and Sara also helped to popularize this sport when bantering about it at a show in London.


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
Amateur Athletic Union
The Amateur Athletic Union is one of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.-History:The AAU was founded in 1888 to...

 champion swimmer, Esther Williams
Esther Williams
Esther Jane Williams is a retired American competitive swimmer and MGM movie star.Williams set multiple national and regional swimming records in her late teens as part of the Los Angeles Athletic Club swim team...

, who popularized synchronized swimming through (often elaborately staged) scenes in Hollywood films such as Bathing Beauty
Bathing Beauty
Bathing Beauty is a 1944 musical starring Red Skelton, Basil Rathbone and Esther Williams and directed by George Sidney.Although this was not William's screen debut, it was her first Technicolor musical. The film was initially to be titled "Mr. Co-Ed" with Red Skelton having top billing...

(1944), Million Dollar Mermaid
Million Dollar Mermaid
Million Dollar Mermaid is a 1952 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer biographical musical film of the life of Australian swimming star Annette Kellerman. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr. from a screenplay by Everett Freeman. The music score was by Adolph Deutsch, the...

(1952), and Jupiter's Darling (1955). In the 1970s and 80s, Ft. Lauderdale swimming champion Charkie Phillips
Charkie Phillips
Charlotte “Charkie” Phillips is an American choreographer best known as a water ballet choreographer for television and films in the 1970s and 80s...

 revived water ballet on television with The Krofftettes
The Krofftettes
The Krofftettes were a dance troupe, who also performed water ballet, featured on The Brady Bunch Hour from 1976 to 1977. They were the first to perform synchronized swimming as a regular feature on a prime-time network program....

 in The Brady Bunch Hour
The Brady Bunch Hour
The Brady Bunch Hour is an American variety television series produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in association with CBS Television Distribution, which aired on ABC between 1976 to 1977....

 (1976–77), NBC's The Big Show
The Big Show (TV series)
The Big Show is an American comedy-variety-musical television series produced and broadcast by NBC for several months in 1980.The series aimed to revitalize the moribund variety television genre, which had been in a downward spiral since the cancellations of the Ed Sullivan Show and The Carol...

 (1980), and then on screen with Miss Piggy in The Great Muppet Caper
The Great Muppet Caper
The Great Muppet Caper is a 1981 mystery comedy film directed by Jim Henson. It is the second of a series of live-action musical feature films, starring Jim Henson's Muppets. This film was produced by Henson Associates, ITC Entertainment and Universal Pictures, and premiered on 26 July 1981. The...


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
Summer Olympic Games
The Summer Olympic Games or the Games of the Olympiad are an international multi-sport event, occurring every four years, organized by the International Olympic Committee. Medals are awarded in each event, with gold medals for first place, silver for second and bronze for third, a tradition that...

. It was not until 1968 that synchronized swimming became officially recognized by FINA
Fina may refer to:*Fina, a character in the Skies of Arcadia video game*FINA, the International Swimming Federation*FINA, the North American Forum on Integration...

 as the fourth water sport next to swimming
Swimming (sport)
Swimming is a sport governed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation .-History: Competitive swimming in Europe began around 1800 BCE, mostly in the form of the freestyle. In 1873 Steve Bowyer introduced the trudgen to Western swimming competitions, after copying the front crawl used by Native...

, platform diving and water polo
Water polo
Water polo is a team water sport. The playing team consists of six field players and one goalkeeper. The winner of the game is the team that scores more goals. Game play involves swimming, treading water , players passing the ball while being defended by opponents, and scoring by throwing into a...


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.
Event 1984
Synchronized swimming at the 1984 Summer Olympics
Synchronized swimming was introduced to the Olympic Games at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, with two events, both for women only.-Medal summary:-Medal table:...

Synchronized swimming at the 1988 Summer Olympics
At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, two events in synchronized swimming were contested, both for women only.-Medal summary:-Medal table:...

Synchronized swimming at the 1992 Summer Olympics
At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, two events in synchronized swimming were contested, both for women only.In the solo competition, a judge accidentally entered a score of 8.7 instead of 9.7 for Sylvie Fréchette, costing her first place. After appeals by the Canadian Olympic Committee, her...

Synchronized swimming at the 1996 Summer Olympics
Final results for the synchronized swimming competition at the 1996 Summer Olympics.Previous Olympics had a Solo and Duet event but for the 1996 there would only be a team event...

Synchronized swimming at the 2000 Summer Olympics
Synchronized swimming at the 2000 Summer Olympics was held in the Olympic Aquatic Centre where 104 competitors challenged for 2 gold medals in the duet and team events. Each event was made up of a technical and free routine with the points added together to determine the medalists.-Medal...

Synchronized swimming at the 2004 Summer Olympics
Synchronized swimming at the 2004 Summer Olympics was held in the Olympic Aquatic Centre where 104 competitors challenged for 2 gold medals in the duet and team events. Each event was made up of a technical and free routine with the points added together to determine the medalists.-Medal...

Synchronized swimming at the 2008 Summer Olympics
Synchronized swimming competitions at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were held from August 18 to August 23, at the Beijing National Aquatics Center.-Medalists:- Schedule :All times are China Standard Time - Team :- Duet :...

Women's team       4
Women's duet   6
Women's solo         3
Total Events 2 2 2 1 2 2 2


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.


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 swimmers use eggbeater to propel their fellow teammates 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 the lift 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 her shoulders. As the lift rises, both the base and top extend their legs to achieve maximum height.
  • Throw:

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 at the sides.

  • Front Layout: Much like a Back Layout, the only difference is that the swimmer is on his/her stomach.

  • 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 catilina (tier 6 and 7 figure)
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 synchronisation 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
A noseclip is a small bent piece of wire covered in rubber worn by some swimmers . It is designed to clasp the nostrils closed to prevent water from getting in or air from escaping during activities such as synchronized swimming...

 to keep water from entering their nose when submerged. Some swimmers even wear ear-plugs to keep the water out of their ears. Hair is worn in a bun and flavorless gelatin
Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, brittle , flavorless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing. Substances containing gelatin or functioning in a similar...

, Knox, is used to keep hair in place. 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 (but marks will be taken 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 is very necessary 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. Coaches also use these 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.


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. Swimmers compete year-round at competitions called "meets". 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 Tier Structure system with age groups 8 & under to 16 & over. There is also a skill level which is Tier 6 and 7, as well as competition at the Masters and University levels. Tiers 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 (16–18) and Senior (18+) level athletes.
There are also the Wildrose age group . This is for competitors before they reach Tier 6. Wildrose ranges from Tier 1–5. 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.

External links

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