London 2012: Synchronized Swimming

Published On July 12, 2012 | By Jill Saftel

The Russians are the favorites for synchronized swimming gold. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports via US PRESSWIRE)

Tell me about synchronized swimming:

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte won’t be the only Olympic athletes making a splash in the pool this summer as they race down the lanes. Synchronized swimmers will also be taking to the pool as these graceful athletes face off in a duet and team competition.

Synchronized swimming is one of only two sports on the Olympic program competed in only by women, the other being rhythmic gymnastics. Synchronized swimming actually got its start as a sport for men in the 1800s that grew out of ornamental water ballets, but it didn’t appear at the Olympics until the 1984 Los Angeles games. A total of 104 athletes will compete in synchronized swimming at the Aquatics Centre, with eight countries participating in both events allowed nine athletes in total, from which two compete in the Duets event and eight compete in the Teams event. The remaining 16 countries participating only compete in the Duets event with two competitors.

What’s up with the scoring?

Duets or teams perform short routines aided by underwater speakers. Judges look at a variety of components during the routines, including choreography, difficulty, and precision.

In the Teams event, each team performs twice, once with a technical routine and once with a free routine. The combination of those two scores determines the results.

For duets, the same two routines are performed. The total combined score from those two routines determines who moves on to the final, where they perform just a free routine. The competition results are then decided by the combination of the final free routine score and preliminary technical routine score.

Technical routines are centered around required elements, while free routines include artistry and musical interpretation.

How do players qualify?

Teams and duos qualified at the Synchronized Swimming Olympic Games Qualification Tournament, which took place at the Aquatics Centre of Olympic Park April 18-22 of this year.

International players to watch: 

Australia, Canada, China, and Egypt are the teams to watch in both the Duets event and Teams event. These four teams qualified as Continental Champions.

In 2008, the same two teams took the same two medals in both the Team and Duets events, as Russia and Spain won gold and silver respectively in both categories. Anastasia Davydova took home that gold for Russia in 2008, and she returns to the Games in London looking to repeat. Andrea Fuentes also returns from Spain’s silver medal team.

Americans to watch:

U.S. duo Mariya Koroleva and Mary Killman aren’t expected to medal in the Duets event, but their partnership was just formed in September 2011. Before pairing up, the swimmers were actually rivals, but six weeks after becoming a duo, Killman and Koroleva took home the silver medal at the Pan American Games in Mexico.

The United States only has a shot at medaling in duets, as the U.S. did not qualify for the team event, finishing sixth in the Qualification Tournament.

Talk like an Olympian:

Back layout – a position in which the swimmer lies flat on her back on the surface of the water
Deckwork – the first movements performed by swimmers after the music starts but before they get in the pool.
Eggbeater – a powerful way of treading water by which a swimmer can perform arm movements while staying afloat.

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.