March 2005 archives

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30 March 2005

It is common knowledge that young girls and women can struggle with eating disorders, due in part to being subjected to pressures that can lead to these psychological and medical conditions. Sports like gymnastics and synchronized swimming can enhance pressure on young athletes to be slim using unhealthy means. Athletes in judged sports are subject to the highest degree of scrutiny, and this can lead quite easily to problems associated with their weight. Coaches and parents should be extremely careful when addressing such issues with young athletes, and should get informed about the best way to educate athletes on proper nutrition and health.

The USA Synchro office has several materials (and contact information) on their website from a clinical sports psychologist, Dr. Lisa Franseen. This information may be a helpful resource for coaches and parents who are addressing weight, health, and body awareness issues with athletes.

26 March 2005

The United States Collegiate Nationals are taking place this weekend in Florida. Stanford University and Ohio State University continue to battle for the top rank. This event is the premier collegiate event of the year in the country. Many of these athletes will continue on to the US National Championships at the end of April.

24 March 2005

I was recently interviewed and the reporter asked some very thoughtful questions. I will recap them, as well as my responses.

What makes a good synchronized swimmer? How does a swimmer mimic another's movements?

An accomplished athlete in this sport will have many psychological qualities (dedication, persistence, ability to work as a team player, creativity, confidence, well-defined work ethic, patience, courage, etc.) And physical qualities (strength, flexibility, athleticism, body awareness, grace, etc.). This sport demands an array of talents, along with a drive to achieve perfection. This takes physical skill, and mental fortitude.

What is it about synchronized movement that engenders admiration and awe?

Personally, i have been drawn to synchronized movement since i saw the sport for the first time as a young girl. I found it incredible and like magic; i had the desire to figure out how the athletes were able to accomplish their movements. Being synchronized is not only about repetition, it is about predicting another person's next move. At the elite level (after years of training) it is possible to notice slight changes in another teammate's movement and react instantaneously to this change. In an unstable medium such as water, this is a necessary skill. It is one thing to master your own body movements in the air, and quite another to do so in water while synchronizing with 7 other athletes.

How taxing are your routines?

Synchronized swimming routines are extremely taxing. This is partly because the movements are physically demanding, but also due to the fact that athletes don't breath regularly. Routines are anaerobic and tax the body's system that works in the absence of oxygen. Heartrates are extremely elevated, similar to running sprints at the track. Heartrates can reach 200 beats per minute after finishing a routine. I've seen occasions where athletes pass out in the water during the routine due to lack of oxygen and physical exertion. Athletes push themselves extremely hard, and passing out in the water is very dangerous as you can imagine. I've pulled up a couple of teammates out of the water over the years.

How does a swimmer, in an unstable medium--water--and while holding her breath, perform gracefully?

Masking your natural instincts is a challenge, but can be learned. Usually, it takes years to be able to hide the fact that you are completely tired and want to breath really hard during a routine. During one of my olympic swims, i gulped a bunch of water half-way through the 5 minute routine. Of course, my natural instinct was to cough, but i couldn't risk letting anyone hear a cough. So i had to control that instinct and just let myself feel water in my lungs as i did the routine. It took about 30 seconds until that feeling passed. It was a bit distracting to say the least, but just one example of how you have to learn not to let your true instincts show. All of these things can be learned, but it takes years of dedication and commitment and a sheer desire to succeed in order to master.

How much practice does it take to be ready to perform? How many hours a day, etc.?

The answer to this question depends upon the age and level of the athlete. At a young age, athletes train about 3 days a week for 2-3 hours a day. This level increases to where elite athletes train up to 10 hours a day (if not more on certain occassions) six days a week. The sport demands time; athletes must train their own bodies, as well as master a synchronized routine. This takes repetition to the highest degree. It took 9 months for our team to create and perfect our 2 Olympic routines in 1996 (we would have liked more time and could have used it) it is now typical for teams to train for a year or two together to prepare for the Olympics.

Are the biggest hazards kicking each other, colliding, blackouts?

In my opinion, holding your breath is the biggest hazard, in that it can be life threatening. However, there are other hazards that include being kicked. Bones can be broken. We do many lifts and throws, that can be very dangerous if not done properly. Similar to figure skating, if you fall you risk landing on your teammates below. I've also seen this done several times, and it is very frightening.

20 March 2005

I have often heard people argue that synchronized swimming is not a sport. I think this is mainly due to the artistic aspects of the sport. Also, many people think that judged sports are not "real" sports.

Obviously, I believe wholeheartedly that synchronized swimming is a sport, and I even argue that it is one of the most difficult sports. There is no doubt that synchronized swimmers' training is rigorous; elite athletes train from 8-12 hours a day, six days a week. Training sessions include aerobic and anaerobic workouts (such as weightlifting and running) both in the pool and at the gym. Swimmers also spend countless hours perfecting very physically difficult routines. In the team event, eight athletes must be perfectly synchronized for the entire routine, which can last several minutes. Holding your breath while doing strenuous physical activity leads to heartrates reaching 180-200 beats per minute during a routine.

1988 olympic gold medalist Michelle Cameron's perspective is similar to my own.

2 March 2005

If you would like information, instructional videos, and other synchronized swimming educational materials, you can find them at the USA Synchro web store. There are videos and manuals for coaches, judges, and athletes, as well as material for starting your own synchro program. There are also videos of previous elite competitions, which provide a great learning tool.

1 March 2005

I was just asked to post a position for synchronized swimmers to participate in a new show. There are not many opportunities for synchronized swimmers to actually make a living at this sport, so here is rare opportunity to check out.

World Entertainment Services, LLC is currently recruiting synchronized swimmers to perform in the �VIVA� show at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. Showcase your talents while performing with Beluga whales and Pacific White Sided Dolphins. For additional info, please contact Dan Stewart at (407) 310-7690.

synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist