Synchronized swimming makes a splash
My 10-year-old daughter Maya has never been in a pool, lake or ocean she didn’t love. No matter how cold the water or high the waves, she’s ready to plunge in and swim. However, she was never that enthusiastic about going to her swimming lessons. And when I suggested competitive swimming, she nixed that idea. Instead, her extracurricular activities focused on dance, gymnastics and music.
But last year, another mom suggested we sign up our daughters for the synchronized swim club offered by the borough of St. Laurent. Maya was intrigued. This was a sport that took place in the water but involved graceful movements, music and the camaraderie of being part of a team. So I enrolled her, and after the twice-weekly practices, Maya came home tired but jubilant. She talked about the “egg beater” (like a form of treading water that allows swimmers to rise up out of the water) and how teammates would be jumping off each other’s shoulders. She eagerly brought home the large patch, covered in sequins that made an exploding firework design, which had to be sewn onto her swimsuit for the end-of-year show. At the show, she and her teammates performed like professionals. Hair slicked back (they use a mixture of plain gelatin and water to get that smooth look!), the girls twirled, jumped and glided through the water, their smiles as bright as their gleaming costumes.
Once known as water ballet, synchronized swimming is a sport that combines physical challenges with an emphasis on creativity (swimmers have to choreograph routines and find appropriate music). Valérie Welsh, a member of the Canadian National Synchronized swim team who also coaches young swimmers, says the sport has much to offer young people. “They develop strength because it’s a very intensive cardio workout,” she says. “But they also develop creativity and teamwork skills, as they work together.” Despite the sport’s girls-only reputation, Welsh says that many clubs welcome boys. “It’s a sport for both sexes,” she says, adding that male synchronized swimming is much more popular in the United States than Canada. “But hopefully we’ll eventually get more interest from boys.”
Participants can start at almost any age, as long as they have basic swimming skills. “We’ve had people start as young as 4, and I know women who have started when they were 50.” Synchronized swim routines are often done in teams and the process of developing, practicing and perfecting a piece often leads to strong friendships, Welsh adds. “The team spirit is incredible in this sport.”
For my daughter, synchronized swimming has offered a way to bring together her various interests including gymnastics and dance. And the fact that it all takes place in her favourite element, water, makes it ideal. She’s already enrolled for the fall session and is eager to see her teammates again.
Synchronized swimming is offered at many pools across Montreal, including Beaconsfield, D.D.O. and Cote des Neiges, as well as on the North and South Shores. For a list of clubs and information about synchronized swimming, visit the Synchro Canada website,www.synchro.ca