March 2004 archives

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29 March 2004

For every Olympic Games, each country must qualify to participate in each given sport. For example, in synchronized swimming, only the top 8 teams (one per country) and the top 24 duets (one per country) qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games this summer in Athens, Greece. Each sport has a different method of qualification, and the number of qualified countries/athletes varies per sport.

The Olympic Qualifier for synchronized swimming will take place from April 15-18, 2004 in Athens, Greece. It is typical and desirable to hold the Olympic Qualifiers in the competition venue that will be used for the upcoming Olympic Games. This is a good way to test the venue to be sure it will be ready for the Olympic contest.

27 March 2004

Collegiate athletes from across the United States are competing this week in the 28th annual US Collegiate Championships. There are 29 universities competing at the event in Ann Arbor, MI. Ohio State University and Stanford University are rivals vying for the Championship title.

There are several Varsity programs at universities around the country. This means that athletes can earn scholarships to attend school, and the athletic programs benefit from other school supported services.

26 March 2004

Yesterday was a very exciting day for the world. The Olympic Flame was lit in Olympia, Greece, marking the beginning of the countdown to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, just 140 days away! As I read the articles on the lighting of the torch, excitement overcame me. This happens to those of us struck by 'five-ring fever' as some like to call it. I have no idea who came up with that phrase, but it means someone is hooked on the Olympics.

You can keep an eye on the torch for the next 140 days as it is passed to 36 countries, the first ever worldwide Olympic torch relay. You may also like to read about how the Olympic flame is lit, and the symbolism of the event, which dates back to 776 B.C.

24 March 2004

There is more information in the news about the Athens Olympic Pool. Apparently the pool will not have a roof. I'm hesitant to think this will impact any of the competitors, who are used to competing outdoors. It will be hot outdoors, but I can assure you, it will be cold in the pool!

22 March 2004

When I was about 9 years old, my older sister was already doing synchronized swimming at a local club. Of course, as the younger sister, I always wanted to do everything she did. But my attraction to synchronized swimming was more than just me being a little sister.

Synchro appeared to me like magic. How in the world do the swimmers stay above water and look as if it is effortless? I wanted to find out, so I persuaded my parents to let me join the team at the age of 10.

I soon found out that synchro is not at all effortless. In fact, in my opinion, it is one of the most difficult sports available. Athletes move in unison in an unstable medium (water), keeping their bodies afloat while performing technical moves. Athletes must appear that the routine is effortless and must perform with appropriate facial expressions (we don't always smile!). Flexibility, endurance, grace, strength, and athleticism are all required to complete a routine. AND...athletes don't have the benefit of AIR!

Constant breath-holding makes the sport of synchro an anaerobic activity, which complicates the effort of completing routines up to 5 minutes long. Anaerobic activities are usually sprints, like running or swimming races. Five minutes is a long time to be using anaerobic systems in the body, and this contributes to the build-up of lactic acid, which burns like crazy in athletes' muscles.

If you are still in doubt, I would recommend watching a synchro practice. Or better yet, get in and try it. You won't find any magic going on in the water; it is pure effort!

20 March 2004

Doping in sport is not something new. Athletes from many different countries have tried to use performance enhancing drugs to become better athletes. Now, scientists and doping experts foresee genetic engineering as the next possible tactic that athletes might use to get ahead.

There are athletes in sport that would not question cheating, and would use performance enhancing drugs. But for most athletes, cheating is not a moral choice. Although much publicity is given to those few athletes that get caught, most athletes play by the strict rules and pass many drug tests prior to competition. Honestly, for me, the thought of cheating never crossed my mind. I believe in true competition, and cheating is not a moral nor satisfying method of achieving success.

I think a lot of people are unaware of the stringent rules in sport regarding doping. Athletes must go through extensive drug testing prior to competing for the United States team. Most medications are banned, including many over-the-counter medicines that treat the common cold.

If you are interested in reading more about anti-doping rules in sport, check out the website for the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

19 March 2004

There are many similarities between synchronized swimming and figure skating. In both sports, athletes complete a technical routine and a free routine to music. Judges give scores for technical merit and artistic impression.

The main difference between the two sports is the medium in which the sports are performed. In water, synchronized swimmers use sculling (a motion done with your hands to support your bodyweight up-side-down) and what is called egg-beater (a motion done with your legs to support your bodyweight right-side-up). Swimmers are in the unstable medium of water, and must use these two methods of stabilization to perform skills. Skaters, on the other hand, glide on ice as they perform skills.

Balance and core strength are important for both sports as athletes attempt to defy gravity.

18 March 2004

Here is an interesting scientific abstract on synchronized swimmers and holding your breath.

17 March 2004

In this time of hightened awareness about terrorism and security, Olympic organizers are reviewing their plans for securing the Olympic Games in Athens.

It is difficult for civilians to trust security plans because they are kept hidden. We must proceed with our daily routines hoping that we are safe.

The Atlanta Olympic Park bombing is still very recent. Fortunately, I was no where near the Olympic Park when that bomb went off in 1996. My team and I were sleeping after an exhausting day of practice. I vividly remember our team manager coming into our rooms late at night to be sure we were in our beds. I wasn't quite sure what she was doing at the time, and thought it was a bit strange.

The next morning we found out just why she was making sure we were all accounted for. In the following days, we saw security hightened as we made our way throughout the village and to the venue. We were all lucky in that our families were not injured.

16 March 2004

The Olympics are being held this summer in Athens, Greece. You can follow the first ever Global Olympic Torch Relay.

The Olympic flame is always lit in Olympia, Greece, and then it travels to the host country of the Olympic Games. This year, the Olympic flame will again begin in Olympia, but it will then travel around the world before igniting the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremonies in Athens.

14 March 2004

Achieving goals is difficult. I always say that if something is hard, it is worth achieving. I think it is the tough things in life that teach you something about yourself.

Synchronized swimming is a time-consuming and difficult sport that requires hours and hours of practice each day. It is hard to accomplish homework and and have a social life while training. Sometimes it can be downright impossible and you just want to quit. In my opinion, quitting while you are down is not the right thing to do. Although it is excrutiating, if you make it through the hard times, I think you will be stronger for it, and proud you accomplished something.

11 March 2004

It is interesting to me that there are still articles and information on the internet regarding the 1996 Olympics. I enjoy reading them. USA Today has and article showing the schedule of competition, and some stories on our team. I remember it all like it was yesterday. I'll be writing more comments on the Olympics in the coming months, so stay tuned.

10 March 2004

Many people ask me how long I can hold my breath. Right now, eight years into retirement from the sport, I wouldn't be able to hold it for long.

Holding your breath is not a fun experience. It takes many years for a synchronized swimmer to develop this skill. And it never becomes easy.

I wish our team had tested ourselves to see how long we were able to hold our breath. At least then, I would have an answer for the people who ask. I just guestimate at about 2 minutes. That is how long some of our compulsory figures used to last. In a routine, we would hold our breath for up to a minute.

9 March 2004

It is hard to help a nervous athlete just before they compete. Overcoming the fear of competition is something that needs to be developed over a period of months or years.

I read a great book when I was about 12 that changed the way I handled competition anxiety. I can't remember the name of the book, but what I remember most is a simple explanation about butterflies in your stomach (nerves basically).

The author explained that the feeling of butterflies in your stomach is not something to be feared. What one should do is to get the butterflies to fly together in uniform motion. I think this is a simple way to visualize nerves. It is natural and beneficial to be anxious before competing. However, it is helpful is you can control the nervous feeling. Get the butterflies under control using your mind. It worked for me.

8 March 2004

A recent article in the Yale Daily News states that "some protest the application of 'sport' to competitive cheerleading and synchronized swimming due to the subjective nature of judging."

Defining 'sport' is a well-known dilemna. As the article correctly points out, there is no one source that determines whether an activity should be considered a sport.

I would submit that every sport has some sort of judging involved. Ball sports such as soccer, and combat sports such as wrestling, use referees that have a significant impact on the game or match. Even sports such as swimming have people who determine whether competitors are executing a stroke properly or are touching the walls completely. Swimmers risk disqualification if they are not following the rules, and it is a live person that makes this decision. I wouldn't be so quick to eliminate sports if they are judged, as you might find you are eliminating more activities than you would expect.

3 March 2004

There is an opportunity coming soon for you to view the 2004 Olympic synchronized swimming medal contenders compete in the United States!

In June, the City of Long Beach will host the Long Beach Aquatics Festival which will include the 2004 OLYMPIC teams from the United States, Canada, Russia, and Spain. (Japan is not scheduled to appear, although they are also Olympic medal contenders).

1 March 2004

A friend suggested I write a few comments about the Athens Olympic Games coming up this summer (2004). I am not an authority on whether Athens will be ready to host the world of sport, but I do have a perspective for athletes who are busy preparing right now for the big event.

As athletes rise to the elite level, they realize that there are certain things out of their immediate control. They learn to minimize worry about these factors, and choose instead to focus on what is in their control.

In synchronized swimming, there are a few things that one needn�t worry about, because they are out of your control. Some of them are: the temperature of the pool, the size and depth of the pool, the scores from the judges, the amount of people in the stands, etc. It is a waste of time to even begin to worry about such things, because worry will do absolutely no good in changing the outcome. At the Olympics, there are even more factors that are out of athletes� control. One of these factors is whether the venue will be completed on time.

I think athletes� time is better spent right now training for the Olympics, rather than worrying about the Athens Organizing Committees� schedule. An athlete�s job is to be as prepared as possible, physically and mentally, for the competition. Whether the pool gets a new roof is irrelevant to the competition format. All you need to host a synchronized swimming event is a pool, a sound system, and judges. Paper can be used to calculate scores if the computers aren�t working. Athletes would prefer that their family and friends view their performances from stadium seating, but it is ultimately not necessary in order to compete. Locker rooms are a luxury, not a necessity. Tiled pool decks are also a luxury. Every synchronized swimmer that will compete at the Olympics this summer has grown up competing at least once in a facility that was sub par. I remember a time at a World Cup event where the pool was not even heated! It was miserable, but we still finished the competition just like any other event. I think that happened several times, actually. Athletes can focus on how to handle these situations if and when they arise, however. That type of preparation is fruitful.

My point here is that whether the pool in Athens is luxurious or not, the event will still happen. Let�s not worry about venue construction. Let the Athens Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee worry about those details.

synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist