September 2004 archives

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28 September 2004

Today, the Olympic Organizing Committee of Turin released their mascots for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, Neve and Glitz

Also in Olympic news, the Paralympic Games came to a close today in Athens. The United States earned 88 medals, including 27 gold.

You can view a highlight show of the Paralympic Games on November 13, 2004 on the Outdoor Life Network.

23 September 2004

How much effort is enough?

As a coach, this is something I think about as I watch athletes practice. The answer to this question depends upon what an athlete's goals are in a sport. Most athletes have goals they would like to achieve, and in order to do so, they must learn skills each day. If this is the case, I think each day should be put to good use. Athletes should try to exert maximum effort each practice. Big strides can be made if this concept is followed.

A coach once explained this to me, and it really hit home. If you are not trying your hardest each time to do something, you are essentially wasting precious time. Each day is a new opportunity to gain strength and skill, so it should be used wisely. As an athlete, I found that there is incredible strength in those who have the will to do it.

"To try and fail is at least to learn. To fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been."
Chester Barnard

21 September 2004

Many synchronized swimmers become coaches once they retire. In fact, most synchro athletes that reach the level of the National Team have coached at some point in their lives, usually with their home clubs.

I spent last winter and spring coaching for the Walnut Creek Aquanuts Club in California, and am now a coach for the Hamden Heronettes Club in Connecticut. As strange as it may sound, being around the pool is something that will probably always provide me with a feeling of comfort. Even the smell of chlorine brings a sense of solace. I'm sure it is because of the 20 years I spent growing up around a pool. Although I do enjoy the feeling of swimming, the cold water now keeps me on the deck, rather than in the water swimming.

18 September 2004

You may have heard about the Cirque du Soleil show called "O" playing at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Well, did you know that Cirque du Soleil casting crews were at the Olympics! They were scouting the new talent in sports like synchro and diving for their shows, including a new show they are preparing.

Here is another article discussing Olympians in Cirque.

You can watch a clip of "O". 1996 US Olympic team members Jill Sudduth Smith, Becky Dyroen-Lancer, and Suzannah Bianco are currently in the show.

16 September 2004

The Paralympic Games begin tomorrow with the Opening Ceremonies and the lighting of the Paralympic flame in Olympic Stadium in Athens. The schedule contains 19 sports, and 140 countries will participate. Traditionally, the Paralympics happen just weeks after the Olympic Games. The same venues will be used as those used in the Olympics a few weeks ago.

You can also view the International Paralympic Committee's website for further information on the Paralympics.

14 September 2004

I would like to follow up on my recent discussion on lifts and throws in synchronized swimming routines. These exciting team moves thrill crowds and show degree of difficulty to the all-important judges. But what does it feel like to be part of a lift?

When a team is creating a lift, often they will use the smallest and most acrobatic athlete as the person standing up or flying through the air. As well, the strongest people are the unlucky few that have to stay underwater and push the lift. Both positions are very difficult, and the element of risk is always present.

When doing a platform lift (where a person is standing upright on top of a teammate or two), the person being lifted out of the water is physically standing on another person who is lying prone. When the team lifts the platform out of the water, it is as if the person being lifted is standing on the ground. The full body weight of the person standing is resting on another person. Have you ever had someone stand on you when you are lying on the ground? If done incorrectly, this can be very painful. It is like a load of bricks bearing down on your body.

Throws are somewhat less painful. Several athletes grab each other's wrists to create a mini-platform. One athlete stands on this mini-platform and is catapulted into the air by the force of the thrusting platform. In this lift, wrists and shoulders bear the weight of the athlete being thrown, and if not done correctly, can cause serious injuries to these parts of the body.

Done correctly, lifts and throws should not cause injury, but may cause temporary pain. Teams should always strive to get their timing right. The timing of a person jumping off of a platform must coincide exactly with the force of the people doing the lifting.

9 September 2004

I recently received an email with a few questions regarding the figure competition in synchronized swimming. Compulsory figures used to be competed at all levels, including the Olympics. However, in 1996 those rules were changed, and now only the Junior athletes compete figures.

Synchro figures are basically combinations of individual body positions in the water. Each athletes must move through a series of positions in front of a panel of judges for a score. The rulebook states that figures are to be judged based upon several factors. They must be: "High and controlled, with each section of the figure clearly defined and in uniform motion." The rulebook defines the body positions for each figure that must be performed.

In general, athletes find figures very difficult due to the fact that figures require a significant amount of time under water. Athletes must hold their breath for up to a minute or two while executing the required movements. (a slower, controlled figure is scored better than a fast, choppy figure) Arms are used to stabilize the body, keep the body high out of the water, and keep the body stationary in water. Figures require extreme body strength and muscle control. You can look at the figure descriptions to get an idea of the categories of figures and see drawings describing them.

7 September 2004

The USA Synchronized Swimming website has a great chronology of the sport. Did you know that the US and Canada demonstrated the sport at the 1952 Olympics!

4 September 2004

Several people have made comments in recent weeks about how synchronized swimmers do lifts and throws in their routines. The team routines in the Athens Olympics were full of these maneuvers. Each year, athletes are stretched to their limits of creativity and athletic ability to create new and exciting lifts that propel athletes high out of the water. And always keep in mind, athletes are NOT allowed to touch the bottom.

Sometimes you will see lifts whereby one athlete is lifted out of the water in a standing position and held for several seconds. In these lifts, the athlete is usually standing on one or more person, while the rest of the team pushes them out of the water. This is done with a skill called eggbeater. The eggbeater leg motion is what keeps synchronized swimmers and water polo players afloat.

Throws (where athletes are pushed high into the air) can have several forms. Diving type moves can be performed when athletes are thrown into the air by their teammates. Often, you will see flips an other acrobatics while an athlete is airborne. To accomplish these elements, an athlete is thrown by their teammates who are using the eggbeater once again, and also arm strength. You might find teammates holding onto the athlete's feet, and literally pushing them into the air with their arms (as if they were doing a bench press over their head). The athlete that is being propelled into the air must use their leg strength as well to add to the upward force (like jumping).

There are endless types of lifts and elite athletes and coaches are constantly creating new and exciting ways to impress the judges. Click through these photos for some terrific shots of the Olympic routines and their lifts.

3 September 2004

Here is an amazing satellite image of the Athens Olympics Sports Complex. Try to find the synchronized swimming venue (although the pool is rectangular, the stadium is octagonal).

2 September 2004

An interesting study was conducted in France on elite athletes regarding fitness levels after retirement from sport.

It is very difficult to maintain the rigorous physical training regimen that is required of elite athletes. Once the Olympics are over, many athletes must adjust to a 'normal' life, whatever that may mean. Usually, life after sport includes very little exercise. Whether this is caused by sheer burnout, or time constraints with a new lifestyle, this study appears to quantify the results of inactivity after elite training.

1 September 2004

The athletes that participated in the Olympic Games are now busy doing various activities all over the world. Some are participating in tours, others are busy doing appearances locally and nationally. Athletes that won medals will certainly be busy with this type of work for the next few months. A few will even hire managers in order to take advantage of their newfound success.

The US team should have the opportunity to meet President Bush before the year is up. This is a tradition in the United States. In 1996, our team went to the White House directly from Atlanta on chartered airplanes. It was an unforgetable experience to be shuttled around accompanied by so many police officers and secret service agents. We had about 10 or 15 huge buses full of athletes, coaches and managers that dropped us off on the White House lawn. Although it was a warm day in August, we enjoyed visiting with each other as we waited to see the President, First Lady, and Chelsea Clinton. Whether you agreed with the President's politics or not, it was a special opportunity to meet someone who is arguably the most powerful person in the world.

synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist