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Encyclopedia > Synchronized swimming
Russian synchronized swimming team, May 2007
Russian synchronized swimming team, May 2007

Synchronized swimming is a hybrid of swimming, gymnastics, and dance, consisting of swimmers (either individuals, duets, trios, teams or combos) performing a synchronized routine of elaborate and dramatic moves in the water, accompanied by music. Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 473 pixelsFull resolution (1024 × 606 pixel, file size: 492 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 473 pixelsFull resolution (1024 × 606 pixel, file size: 492 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Swimmer redirects here. ... Gymnastics is a sport involving the performance of sequences of movements requiring physical strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, gracefulness, and kinesthetic awareness, and includes such skills as handsprings, handstands, split leaps, aerials and cartwheels. ... For other uses, see Dance (disambiguation). ...

Synchronized swimming demands proficient water skills, and requires strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, not to mention exceptional breath control while upside down underwater. Developed in the early 1900s in Canada, it is a sport performed almost exclusively by women, although there is some participation by men. In its early form it was sometimes known as "water ballet".

It is a Summer Olympic Games sport. First demonstrated in 1952, it has been an official event since 1984.[1] Olympic and World Championship competition is not currently open to men, but other international and national competitions allow male competitors. Both USA Synchro and Synchro Canada allow men to compete with women. Poster for the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. ...

Competitors show off their strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance required to perform difficult routines. Swimmers perform two routines for the judges, one technical and one free.

Synchronized Swimming is governed internationally by FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur). Fina may refer to: Fina is the name of Belgian petroleum company Petrofina. ...



When performing routines, competitors will typically wear a noseclip. This is done to keep water from entering competitors' noses. Hair is worn in a bun on the head and flavourless gelatin is used to keep hair in place. Goggles are sometimes not worn because they are considered distracting and take away from the artistic beauty of the routine. Competitors also wear custom swimsuits and headpieces, usually elaborately decorated, to reflect the type of music to which they are swimming. The costume and music are not judged directly, but factor into the overall performance and artistic impression. Heavy eye makeup is often worn to help portray the emotions involved with the routine, but it is not necessary. Underwater speakers ensure that swimmers can hear the music at all times.

Levels of competition

In the United States the competitions are divided into the following age groups: Age Group, Juniors (elite 14-18), Seniors (elite 18 and over), Collegiate, and Masters. Within each competition there are different levels determined by age, point score or affiliation (for example, novice, intermediate, age group, junior (14 and up), senior, varsity, club, master, etc. Individual swimmers may compete in up to three events, solo, duet, trio, and team. A team consists of four to eight swimmers, with .25 points added to the final score for each swimmer over the minimum of four. Swimmers also compete in individual figures and technical elements, which in some levels of competition are sometimes factored in with routine scores. Also, competition rules may limit the number of events that each team can participate in.

In Canada synchronized swimming has a skill-based Tier Structure system with Tiers 1-7 as well as competition at the Masters and University levels. Tiers 6 and 7 are national stream athletes that fall in line with international age groups - Tier 6 is 15 and Under and Tier 7 is Junior (15-18) and Senior (18+) level athletes.

In the UK competitions include county level, regional level through to the national age group competition usually held towards the end of the year. Competitiors are split by age group, 12 and under, 13 & 14, 15/16/17, and 18 and over. To compete in the competitive strand of competitions swimmers must hold the required skill level for their age group. Recreational strands of competitions are also present to allow those competitors who have not achieved the desired level. Swimmers compete through figures, duets, teams and combination routines.

Basic Skills

Sculls are the basic elements of synchronized swimming and they are combined with one or more positions to form a figure, or complete movement. Figures can be combined with transition elements, such as above the water arm movements, and set to music, to form a routine. For more information about figures, USSS (United States Synchronized Swimming) publishes yearly a handbook of all the figures, including explanations and step-by-step drawings, that are recognized in the United States. It is available from their website.


Sculls, or movements used to propel the body, are the most essential part to synchronized swimming. Commonly used sculls include head-first, foot-first, torpedo, dolphin, reverse scoop, split, barrel, paddle, support and canoe sculls. The support scull is used to support the body when a swimmer is completing a movement upside-down and underwater. Support scull is performed by holding the upper arms against the sides of the body and the lower arms at 90-degree angles to the body. The lower arms are then moved back and forth while maintaining the right angle.

Eggbeater is another important skill of synchronized swimming. It is a form of treading water that allows for stability and height above the water while leaving the hands free to perform.


There are hundreds of different regular positions and infinite combinations of positions. These are a few basic and commonly used ones:

  • Vertical position: Achieved by holding the body upside down and perpendicular to the surface of the water. The legs are held together above the water with toes pointed.
  • Crane position: While holding a vertical body position, the legs are held at a 90-degree angle with one parallel to the water and the other perpendicular.
  • Vertical bent knee: Similar to the vertical position, but one knee is bent as much as possible with the toe touching the inside of the vertical leg.
  • Ballet Leg: Beginning in a back layout, one leg is extended and held perpendicular to the body, while the other is held straight along the surface of the water. A stationary scull under the hips is used to support the leg.
  • Split position: Holding the body in a vertical position, the legs are extended in opposite directions along the surface of the water and held as flat as possible while keeping the hips straight.

Further descriptions of technical positions can be found on the International Olympic Committee website


Swimmers perform in an upside-down vertical position
Swimmers perform in an upside-down vertical position

Routines are composed of "hybrids", figures, and arm sections. They often incorporate lifts or throws, an impressive move in which a group of swimmers lift or throw another swimmer out of the water. Swimmers are synchronized both to each other and to the music. During a routine swimmers can never use the bottom of the pool for support, but rather depend on sculling motions with the arms, and eggbeater kick to keep afloat. After the performance, the swimmers are judged and scored on their performance based on technical merit and artistic impression. Technical skill, patterns, expression, and synchronization are all critical to achieving a high score. Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 450 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (600 × 800 pixel, file size: 214 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 450 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (600 × 800 pixel, file size: 214 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ...

Technical Vs. Free Routines: Depending on the competition level, the swimmers will perform a free routine - no specific choreography requirement - and either a technical routine with predetermined elements or technical elements - a sequence of positions performed individually in from on a panel of judges.

Length of Routines: The type of routine and competition level determines the length of routines. Routines typically last two and a half to five minutes long, the shortest being solos, with length added as the number of swimmers are increased (duets, trios and teams).

In technical competitions, solo swimmers have only two minutes to perform their routine. In free routines solos are three minutes, duets three and a half minutes and teams four minutes.

Scoring: Routines are scored on a scale of 100, with points for both artistic impression and technical merit. The artistic mark is worth 60% of the total and the technical mark is worth 40%.

Combination (Combo) Routine: A new category has recently been incorporated into international Synchronized Swimming called the Combination Routine. In this event, up to ten swimmers compete a single continuous routine with two segments of team, two segments of duet and two segments of solo. During parts of the routing when some swimmers are not performing, they tread water alongside without touching the side or bottom of the pool. It is up to the discretion of the coach to determine the combinations of swimmers who will swim. The degree of involvement for any specific swimmer may vary. For example, a single swimmer may compete in both duet segments with two different partners or a swimmer may only perform in a single solo segment of the routine. This event is new but is gaining popularity with teams and audiences on an international level.

High school synchronized swimming

While there are hundreds of clubs around the United States, few states support Synchronized Swimming as an official high school sport. Each program structure may vary from place to place.

Minnesota has an extensive high school program which includes around 15 different high schools. The competition is divided into short, long and extended. The competition group is based on skill level of the swimmers and scores from the previous years competition. Free routines - solos, duets, trios and teams - and technical elements are performed at dual meets throughout the season culminating in a 2-day state championship at the end of the year.

Michigan also has a high school varsity program. Its structure is similar to the USSS Age Group program with free and technical team, duet, and trio routines. Figures are also performed at competition and are divided into four levels (A-D), depending on the ability of the swimmer.


  1. ^ Becky Maltby (October/November 2007). Into the Blue. Hana Hou! Vol. 10 No. 5.

Hana Hou! is an American bi-monthly English language inflight magazine[1] published for Hawaiian Airlines by Honolulu-based Pacific Travelogue Inc. ...

External links

  • "Sync or Swim" Documentary film being made about synchronized swimming

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