Synchronized Swimming


Synchro, as aficionados call it, is actually an anaerobic sport that can be as physically draining as track sprints. The reason: you have to stay underwater for nearly a minute at a time while shoving your friends into the air. For every swimmer that gracefully pops out of the water, there are two or three swimmers beneath her frantically treading water and serving as an underwater table. Those unlucky enough to play the role of the “table” content themselves with the knowledge that their work is important and that if they miss a move or pass out from lack of oxygen havoc can ensue. As Olympic gold medalist Jill Savery put it: “Bones can be broken.”


A synchro career begins with mastering the eggbeater, a no-hands method of treading water that requires rock-solid leg muscles. From there, swimmers move on to figures, ballet-like moves ranging from the albatross, an upside-down vertical spin, to the unfortunately named blossom, or underwater splits. Eventually, swimmers learn to choreograph routines, perform lifts, and to do their hair. Before each performance, swimmers gather their tresses into tight buns, slather the ‘dos with a sticky mixture of unsweetened gelatin and water, and attach sequined hairpieces. After a three day event, the gelatin buns produce the pinched, smile-through-the-pain expression common on many synchro's faces.