August 2004 archives
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30 August 2004
The Closing Ceremonies last night were a fitting tribute to a wonderful Olympic Games in Athens. Many people doubted whether Greece could pull this off. Construction delays hampered deadlines that left the world a little troubled as to whether the Games would actually happen on time.
Alas, the Games went off very well, with only one minor public security breach (to my knowledge) that happened during the men's marathon.
In a time of increased terrorism around the world, protecting the Olympic Games was a monumental feat. And it was accomplished. Many thanks to the thousands of security forces that made this event possible, and reinforced our belief that the Olympic Games is about peaceful competition.
28 August 2004
The world witnessed some amazing Olympic synchronized swimming on Friday night in the final team event. The US team won a bronze medal, moving up two places from a 5th place finish in Sydney. It was extremely difficult to critique each routine and compare them, as the NBC cameras were at strange angles and moved around too much. More on that lin a future entry.
What was obvious, is that the top three routines were very unique. Russia had a very upbeat routine, with lots of color and quick movements. The US team included drama, big lifts, and precision. The Japanese routine was well-choreographed, but did have some noticeable mistakes. All of the lifts and throws were amazing. Every year they improve.
The Closing Ceremonies are tonight. It is a sad day, as the world will say good-bye for another two years. The Greeks have done themselves proud, even in the face of gigantic obstacles and deadlines.
27 August 2004
When I was an age-group synchronized swimmer, I used to wonder how athletes prepare for the finals in Olympic competition. I would imagine that their nerves would be running wild as they realized that the finals represented many years and countless hours of effort. I imagine right now, the US team may be feeling a bit nervous, but if they've prepared their minds and bodies well, these feelings won't overtake them, and can be used to motivate.
The day of a final event is usually planned thoroughly ahead of time. Athletes know what time they will wake up, what they will eat, their and the day's schedule will have been planned to the minute. Their bags will have been packed and double-checked the night before to take to the venue. Warm-up in the pool can be up to several hours, but is hopefully not too strenuous. After warm-up, swimmers prepare by putting their hair up, and putting on their competition suits. One last review of the routine will be done on land, and then they must wait in an area called the 'ready room'. They line up in the order they will swim, and then wait for their turn. This can be a pretty stressful time, but by this point the athletes should have prepared their minds enough to control their nerves.
Walking out on deck for your final performance is a sureal experience. This is a time where you have to focus on the task at hand, rather than let thoughts of your entire athletic career flash through your mind. In order to get through this moment when I was competing in 1996, I kept saying to myself "just like practice." If you've prepared well during practice, all you have to do is repeat that effort during competition. For me it worked rather well. There were only a few times during our team performance when I realized the magnitude of the event. But when that happened, I brought myself back to the task at hand.
I wish our team well tonight. I know they can do it!
26 August 2004
Guide to watching synchronized swimming:
Since more people watch synchro during the olympics than at any other time, I thought it might be beneficial to provide a brief synchronized swimming viewiers guide.
This is by no means a definitive guide; I just wanted to provide some insights to help people new to the sport to understand what to look for in the pool.
Synchronization: the swimmers must be synchronized with each other and to the music. This synchronicity includes not only the timing of their movements but also their positioning in the water. During the technical program, all swimmers are expected to be doing exactly the same thing for most of the routine while they perform certain elements. So if one athlete pivots an arm to 60 degrees, then the other athletes should do the same. Any discrepancies are counted as deductions. During a technical team routine, there are just a few times when the athletes are performing certain elements that are not perfectly synchronized. These will usually be pointed out by the TV announcers. During a free program, choreography allows for a break in synchronization of movements, but these must comply with some scheme and design of the routine. The design of the routine must always match the music.
Execution and Level of Difficulty: In many instances, a mistake-free yet simple routine can be given a higher score with respect to a very difficult routine that includes some erorrs. Which movements are more difficult? Getting high out of the water (right-side-up or up-side-down), lifting two arms or two legs simultaneously, holding your breath for extended periods, and intricate or quick body movements are more difficult. In general, higher is better than lower, vertical is better than off-vertical.
Artisitic Impression: Despite all of the difficult technical movements that I have just described, synchronized swimmers are also judged on their interpretation of the music and how well they express that interpretation with the design of the routine. Well-choreographed routines aid in conveying emotion to the audience. Facial expressions should match with the tone of the music. Elite synchronized swimmers will NOT smile throughout a routine, unless the music calls for a cheerful expression. Usually, facial expressions change several times throughout a routine to match the mood of the music.
These categories are my own method of organization - the judges themselves are looking for very specific things, that I will try to describe in later entries.
26 August 2004
The team is now sitting in 3rd place after the technical program, well ahead of Spain who is in fourth place. Russia continues to dominate the sport, with Japan in second place. Team USA will compete in the finals tomorrow evening, which will be shown on NBC in their primetime coverage! Although synchro is sometimes not viewed as a serious sport, NBC always seems to show them in their primetime event. Did you know synchro is one of the sports that sells out first at the Games!
I'm certain Team USA is pumped up by this accomplishment today. Their performance tomorrow night will certainly be exciting and full of energy. They will swim a routine with the theme "Fantasia."
There is no rest for the team tonight and early tomorrow. They will have to switch gears to focus on the free program, which is full of risky elements like lifts and throws. These types of elements are what makes the team event so special and exciting to watch.
25 August 2004
They did it! It has been 8 years since the United States has won a medal in Olympic synchronized swimming competition. The duet of Alison and Anna won a bronze today in Athens. They should be very proud of themselves. They moved up in the rankings, which is extremely difficult in a judged sport.
Tomorrow is the beginning of the team event. I'm sure team USA is ready to go for it. They have been training for over a year together preparing for this moment. They probably want to go out there and show the judges what they can do. I saw the routines back in June at an exhibition and the choreography is fantastic.
During the Olympics, the synchro swimmers must keep up a rigorous training schedule until it is their turn to compete. Synchronized swimming is typically at the end of the Olympics. There are advantages and disadvantages to competing towards the end of the Games On one hand, synchro athletes are always allowed to march in the Opening Ceremonies. (Some athletes in other sports do not march because their competitions are early in the Games and they do not want to get tired.) On other hand, athletes that compete early in the Games can then enjoy the experience of attending other events, and exploring the city of Athens, etc. The synchro athletes have very little, if any, time to really enjoy the city and all the other events at the Olympics.
24 August 2004
The United States is back in the medal hunt at the Olympic Games in Athens. Check out the official website for results and start lists.
The US duet of Anna Koslova and Alison Bartosik is currently in third place going into the finals which are to be held Wednesday, August 25th. They swam their technical and free programs, and will again swim the free program tomorrow night in the finals. The top 12 countries advance to the finals. Anna and Alison will be swimming 10th out of the 12 duets. This draw is good, but it is always better to be last. Japan will swim 11th and Russia 12th. Those duets are in 2nd and 1st place respecively.
23 August 2004
synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist