Today I took a break from marathon training to complete my 29th Olympic challenge. Along with Rhythmic Gymnastics, Synchronised Swimming is a sport that only women are able to compete in at the Olympic Games. I decided however that this shouldn’t stop me adding these sports to the list particularly as the ultimate aim of this 4 year journey was to gain an appreciation of each of the Olympic sports so that I can watch, understand and enjoy all of the Rio sports in 2016.
I wasn’t really sure how I was going to learn synchro or what I would constitute sufficient to complete the challenge, but luckily I’ve got a big mouth and I’m pretty sure that all my friends, colleagues, plus a large majority of people that have spent more than 5 minutes with me know about my challenge and most seem generally interested and keen to help out if they can. And this is how my synchro opportunity came about – a friend of mine from the running club, Tom Irvine, knew a member of the London GB 2012 Synchro team and put me in touch via Facebook and so my challenge was on.
So not only would I get the chance to learn synchro, I would be coached by actual Olympians, Vicki Lucass and Katie Clark. This was an incredible honour and a first for the challenge. We met at their training base in Aldershot – during the run up to the London Games, the entire team were based here and funded as full time athletes. Unfortunately like a number of sports, post London 2012 their funding has been cut, which has obviously had a significant impact on them as a team.
Profiles of Vicki and Katie are on the GB site below.
I turned up this morning, not really knowing what we were going to do and I was slightly apprehensive about my ability to do the sport, based on my shocking gymnastic agility, lack of grace, poor coordination, average swimming ability and my inability to point my toes due to my club foot. Surely these weren’t that important so I ran 19 miles yesterday to ensure that my legs were tired as well!
We began by going through a few basic skills, including sculling and ‘egg beating’, before moving onto some more complex moves (yes complex!). So was I natural? Instead of giving it away in this post – I’ll let you decide by watching the video below – although I think it’s safe to say that even if there was a male GB Olympic team they wouldn’t be worrying about their places on the team!
During our session, Vicki and Katie ran through a couple of short routines and there were also a couple of other girls in the water practicing so I could see how it was meant to be done.
They were both really impressive, not just their demonstrations but their coaching was also excellent, with clear explanations throughout and positive, yet constructive comments. I’m not sure I would have been as upbeat about my performance though.
Overall I really enjoyed the session, much more than I thought I would, but I did find it really difficult. Being able to focus on technical elements that require a high level of physical strength whilst holding your breath is no mean feat. I’ve barely touched the surface (no pun intended) of this sport, but my time in the pool today was enough to develop a serious respect for the sport.