29th challenge completed – Synchronised Swimming

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.

20150326-synchro-1173So 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!

20150326-synchro-1022We 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.

20150326-synchro-1006 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.

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The plan for 2015

I started 2015 in a way that sums up the new me. Instead of the usual going out on new year’s eve, we stayed in as I prepared for the Serpentine NYE 10k run. In fairness we had spent a week on the road over the festive period and we’d run out of energy come the 31st. My early night was rewarded as I bagged myself a new 10k PB of 43.51.


The first 3 months of 2015 will largely be dedicated to training for the Greater Manchester Marathon and my goal of sub-3.30, although I have found time to schedule the volleyball and rugby challenges.

So this leaves an additional 13 and certainly not the easiest of 13.

The two aquatic sports of synchronised swimming and water polo will prove a challenge. Sychro is not a male sport in the Olympics and water polo is often played at a very competitive level.

Next is basketball, there are plenty of social leagues around London so it should be just a case of finding the time to take part in one.

Boxing, well I’m not particularly looking forward to this one and decided against anything that involves me getting punched. I’ll arrange a training session at some point.

Then comes the three equestrian sports of dressage, eventing and jumping. I’m still not exactly sure how this will be achieved but some sort of course or series of private lessons is probably on the cards.

Gymnastics is another sport split into three; artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline. We have a couple of friends that are coaches so the plan will be to spend a day learning various routines. Hoping to rope in a few others as well.

Hockey in a similar way to basketball has a number of social leagues in London so it should just be a matter of time before I can find a date in 2015 to play.

Modern pentathlon is a combination of:

  • Fencing (completed 23rd Aug, 2013)
  • Swimming (completed 23rd Mar, 2013)
  • Pistol Shooting (completed 2nd Dec, 2012)
  • Cross-Country Run (completed 26th Oct, 2014)
  • Show jumping

Once I’ve completed jumping as part of the equestrian sports this will be complete.

Taekwondo is available in a number of places across London but it would be good to find a proper beginners course and really get into one of the martial art disciplines.

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