Synchornised swimming wrap: Working together as one

Published 29 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 18: The team of Australia compete during the Synchronised Swimming Teams Technical Routine at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on Day 13 of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on on August 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING: As Australian Olympians, all 422 athletes were proud to represent Aussie spirit and colour in Rio de Janeiro – but none did so more emphatically than the synchronised swimming section.

Performing to the sounds of the didgeridoo and the call of galahs, the squad of eight brought Australia to life in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre pool through movement, music and costumes.

It was a special moment for the team of nearly all debutants, and coach Lilianne Grenier said it was an achievement they would always remember.

“For them the whole experience was great. What I think was most important was understanding it was possible, and to leave the competition talking about the next four years,” Grenier said.

“It was great to see the athletes doing their routines that we have practiced and (to see them) proud to represent their country and being proud to swim.”

In the context of Olympic Games, Russia is by far the dominant nation having claimed 10 gold medals (five consecutive each in duets and the team event) since the sport was introduced to the schedule in 1984.

The countries nipping at their heels include Japan, China, Spain and Grenier’s native Canada.

Although Australia is not yet in medal contention, they are determined to be noticed by their competitors – a feat they achieved in Rio.

“A lot of people from within synchronised swimming came to us and said how much we had improved since even a year ago,” Grenier said.

“Other countries would come up to me and say how much we had done a great job as a team and it’s great that we have improved so much. We are proud of that, and the athletes are proud of that.”

In particular Australia’s duet team of Rose Stackpole and Nikita Pablo had a tough task set out for them in Rio, having paired up only four months ago. The duo achieved their best scores to date at the Games.

The challenge for the broader synchro team was to achieve unity while living across three different Australian states while still maintaining university and work to support their sporting endeavours.

Since April they centralised their training spending up to two weeks each month in either Perth, Melbourne or Canberra.

Grenier said the team had proven that performing at a world-class level is possible for Australia’s synchronised swimming fraternity despite the obstacles.

“A good team needs to feel the synchronisation and feel the choreography, the have been able to show they can do that in competition,” she said.

“Our duet achieved that in only four months so I’m very proud of them.

“If (synchro) is something that Australia wants to improve it needs help to grow… our athletes are very serious and keen on their sport.”

Candice Keller

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