Fish Out of Water: Discovering Synchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming is an incredible but often misunderstood sport. The idea behind this article was to get a swimmer’s perspective on synchro, and to tell the story of sport from a different angle than just results; including all aspects of synchro life, from coaching to swimming to competition. In this article, I tell my own “synchro story” up until now, and talk a little bit about what Nepean is up to at the moment.

Fish Out of Water:
Discovering Synchronized Swimming

When I was younger, I didn’t know that I would find my home in the pool. I was always a bit awkward and uncoordinated on land, and felt out of place in gym class where there was so much running to do and so many goals to score (or to accidentally miss). I tried lots of different sports throughout elementary school, like soccer, basketball, dance, even handball. I tried lane swimming, and I stuck with that for a few years. My coach told me I had a good shoulder roll in my back crawl, and that was good enough for me. Then one day my mom saw a poster for a synchro club at the pool, and I swapped speed swimming for the graceful, challenging, creative, and beautiful sport of synchronized swimming.

This is my sixth year as a swimmer with the Nepean Synchronized Swim Club, and my fifth year competing provincially. When I think back on all the years I’ve spent at the pool, it comes as a blur of shiny bathing suits and broken nose clips and crystals of Knox gelatine stuck to the bottom of my bag (yes, we do put that stuff in our hair). Most of all I remember the girls on my team, my best friends, and all the incredible coaches who I’ve looked up to. There is something about the team atmosphere in synchro that is hard to describe, and there is something about club spirit at Nepean that you won’t find anywhere else in Ontario.

Even if the earlier years of my synchro career are a little bit hard to remember, I don’t have to look very far to be reminded of what it was like when I first walked onto the pool deck. It’s incredible to see all the little swimmers in the 11-12 or 10 and under age categories as they discover this sport for themselves, or even to look at my peers and the girls on my team who have grown up together. Now, as a recreational coach, I have an even sharper perspective of what it means to guide someone, to be a role model for them, and how much of a difference a sport like synchro can make in someone’s life. I know that I would not be the person that I am today without this sport that means so much to me, and without the coaches that have helped me get here.

In synchro, there are two different events that you compete in front of judges for marks: “figures”, which are short elements or positions that you perform individually, and a routine, set to music, competed as either a solo, a duet, or a team. The 2012-2013 season at Nepean was well underway in November, when we had our first figure competition. All through the fall we’d been training in water and on land, doing running, cardio, flexibility and extension drills as well as pool workouts, spending anywhere from 9-16 hours a week at the pool. In January we headed to Waterloo to swim at the first routine competition of the year. Waterloo Invitational is pretty early in the year to be competing, and most teams were still working on their routines; six teams, various duets and a combo team represented Nepean proudly and came out with two gold, two silver, and three bronze medals. We were just warming up for our first big competition, East Regional Championships, which took place at the Nepean Sportsplex in March. The teams, solos, and duets had wonderful performances at Regionals, with Nepean finishing top six in almost every event (including two gold, five silver, and four bronze medals).

With the 2013 World Women’s Hockey Championship happening this past week, some of the older swimmers at the club had an amazing opportunity to hear from Dr. Peter Jensen, a well-known sport psychologist with experience all over the world from a variety of sports and athletic abilities. Currently working with the Canadian National Women’s hockey team, Dr. Jensen took the time to come and deliver a wonderful and inspiring presentation. I can say for sure that all the girls who heard him speak were motivated to work even harder as our season is wrapping up.

Next weekend we will have the chance to attend the Hilton Invitational Meet in Toronto, which is exciting for swimmers as we get another opportunity to travel with our teams on a bus and spend a couple nights out of town, and we’re all ready to show off our routines. Looking forward, all the swimmers and coaches are busy getting ready for our biggest meet of the year, Ontario Open Age Group Synchronized Swimming Championships (affectionately abbreviated to OOAGSSC). This year we are hosting the meet, which is a fantastic opportunity for our club. As an older athlete, the end of the year is bittersweet, as next year will be my last year as a swimmer. But what I’ve learned from my experiences as a synchronized swimmer is that everything you learn as an athlete stays with you, even when you leave the pool.

Wishing the swimmers of Nepean Synchro the best of luck in their upcoming competitions! It’s going to be another fabulous finish to the year!


By Greer Gemin