olympicsSynchronized Swimming - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

olympicsSynchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming is a team sport that requires both stamina and grace and resembles a combination of gymnastics and ballet performed in the water and accompanied by music. It began in the 1800s and only men were allowed to participate. Today, it is one of only two Olympic events in which only women compete. The other all-women event is rhythmic gymnastics.

The term "synchronized swimming" can be traced back to the early 1930s when Kathryn Curtis brought the show, "The Modern Mermaids," to Chicago's World Exhibition. Curtis referred to the sport as "rhythmic swimming," but the announcer called it "synchronized swimming," and the term has been used ever since.  

A Hollywood star from the 1940s and 1950s is credited with bringing synchronized swimming into the public spotlight. Esther Williams, a national champion swimmer, had hopes of becoming a gold medalist in the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo. But World War II broke out, and the Olympics were cancelled that year. Her heart was broken because she truly believed she could take home the gold. Instead, she brought her passion for swimming to the big screen and went on to become a major film star, showcasing her aquatic abilities in several popular movies.

Synchronized swimmers are performers as well as athletes. Their strength and endurance is matched by their ability to entertain their audience. Their hair pieces, costumes and makeup reflect the theme of the music that accompanies their routine. The music and the costumes are not judged, but the elaborate headpiece must remain on while the swimmer is performing the routine, otherwise marks will be taken off. To ensure that their hair stays exactly where it is supposed to stay, unflavored Knox gelatin is used. 

It is imperative that the swimmers be able to hear the music at all times so underwater speakers are in place. Coaches use the speakers to communicate with the swimmers but only during practice.

Synchronized swimming became an official Olympic event in the 1984 Los Angeles Games in the United States.

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