Many may agree that synchronized swimming has moments of beauty and elegance, but it also has times of being outright odd. It is undisputedly the most mocked Olympic sport. But is the chiding and joking really justified? Or, on the other hand, is synchronized swimming just taking up room in the Olympics for real sports like baseball or thumb wrestling?

The first challenge is defining exactly what constitutes a sport. If your definition is anything that is a competition that people are willing to watch, then you’d need to include poker since it occupies most late evenings on the all-sports channels. Some would argue that it is a competition that requires some athleticism and physical exertion. One may want to argue that being able to hold your breath isn’t athletic, but then again it is far more athletic than being able to make a fast left turn in your car.

The event is clearly a competition that is intricately choreographed and demands exceptional showmanship. It is rather bizarre with its elaborate and colorful costumes. This description makes me think of the pseudo-sport professional wrestling, but with far prettier participants.

Everyone can agree that it takes hours of dedication to choreograph an elaborate routine. Many may not actually realize the training that is involved in synchronized swimming. Swimmers are expected to be treading water for at least eight hours a day during practice. If they aren’t in the water, then they’re spending hours lifting weights, doing cardio exercises and stretching. Do they need to be in such top condition to properly compete in synchronized swimming?

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Most define synchronized swimming as dancing in the water. But most seem to ignore the fact this isn’t the same as spending an afternoon jumping around in the shallow end of their pool. It takes finesse, grace, flexibility, coordination and timing. I think the average person will concede that you need to be in terrific shape to be a successful dancer. The thing that many may not realize is that in synchronized swimming, you’re performing this dance in a 17-foot deep pool. They’re performing all these acts while treading water, and treading water is usually enough of a rigorous activity for me.

The synchronized swimmer is expected to accomplish many athletic feats. The swimmer often lifts and throws another swimmer, and again, this is being done while treading in a 17-foot deep pool. The swimmers also always have a routine where they go upside down, and are expected to do stretches and splits with their legs. The feats with their legs are even more impressive when you realize they’re doing it all while holding their breath. Another signature move is the breaststroke kick where they thrust themselves out of the water, and remember, they aren’t ever touching the floor.

The criticism of synchronized swimming is probably due to it looking easy. It looks easy because these women are fit and accomplished athletes. Synchronized swimming may be one of the most bizarre events in the Olympics, but it is most definitely a sport.

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Chris Spicer
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of NBC)