Feet pointed straight into the air, heads underwater, holding their breath while counting to a musical beat of eight – and all at the same time.
As Bay residents marvelled at the world’s best synchronised swimmers on live telly at Rio’s 2016 Olympic Games, two Tauranga teens have their own harmonised hurdles coming up.
The senior Tauranga Synchro team showing off their skills. Photo: Chris Callinan.
Eva Morris, 18, and Jazzlee Thomas, 17, have dreams of their own to make it to the world’s biggest stage – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
But first they have to swim to simultaneous success here at home, with two events coming up that will showcase the art, passion and appeal of synchronised swimming.
Their club, Tauranga Synchro, is hosting a display day at Baywave on Saturday, September 17, from 11am-12.30pm.
The event is a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the New Zealand National Synchronised Swimming Championships at Baywave the following weekend – a first for Tauranga City.
It’s also the public’s opportunity – especially girls interested in giving synchro a go – to get a feel for the sport.
Papamoa teen Eva started synchronised swimming at age 11.
“I’d done a school project on the 2008 Olympics and two NZ sisters, Nina and Lisa Daniels from Dunedin, who had competed. After that I thought I wanted to join.”
Synchronised swimming is a blend of swimming, gymnastics and dance. The appeal?
“When I started the project I thought it was a little bit silly – I played netball and wasn’t into dancing.
“But I saw the togs and thought they were really cool. I was good at swimming but I knew I was never going to be fast – and I’m terrible at netball. So I thought I’d give it a shot.
Eva says the pull is still strong because she loves working as a team. “And it’s really interesting because you almost get to portray different characters – you can be someone different in the water and it’s all about being creative.”
But there’s hard graft involved too. To perform the best routines, athletes must work on flexibility, endurance – lots of swimming, strength – particularly in their core – and learning counts to music.
Most synchronised swimmers can swim 75m-100m underwater without taking a breath. In a four-minute routine, they spend more than half of the time under water.
“We do spend as lot of time in the pool and synchronisation is probably the hardest part,” admits Eva.
“So there’s a lot of counting involved. The music will have a beat of eight and you count to that constantly and there’s a movement to the beat.”
But the biggest benefit? The team become your family. “You do a lot of stuff together – and you’re always working to the same goal.”
And reaching those goals as a team has an added feeling of accomplishment. “Even in a duet – like me and Jazz – you decide you’re going to achieve something and when you do it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Bethlehem College Year 13 student Jazz started synchronised started at age eight. “My older sister was doing synchro and I wanted to follow her in footsteps.
“I guess I love the team atmosphere and being part of something.”
Why stick with it? “It one of those sports that when you start you never stop. It’s really addictive and you get to know everyone so well – you become so tight friendship-wise.”
For Jazz the hardest task is synchronisation – or holding her breath. And common injuries are broken fingers and being get kicked underwater. “You’ve always got bruises on you – but I love that every day is slightly different.
“Our future goal is to make the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It will mean a lot of training both in and out of the water – but it is realistic.
“But our short-term goal is to make the 2017 world championships in Budapest, Hungary.”
But first they have a display day today, Saturday, and the NZ National Synchronised Swimming Championships from September 24-27 – both at Baywave – with 143 athletes from nine NZ clubs, plus three clubs from New Caledonia, Perth and China, to compete.
Tauranga Synchro has 25 athletes competing across the competition from their Dolphin beginners team to senior athletes.
Best days for spectators are September 26-27 from 10am-4.30pm with solo, duets and team performances. Baywave spectator charges apply.