It started in 1964, but I still remember it well. Learning to swim at the Aldershot Command Baths with Tom Kennedy – an intimidating teacher with techniques you probably wouldn’t use today, but certainly one of the best coaches in the country in his day. My sister Jane and I weren’t particularly top of the class, but we enjoyed the lessons and improved rapidly. I’ll never forget the day when my Mum drove us home with a big smile on her face and the conversation that then flowed between her and my Dad. She had seen someone travelling across the pool with her legs at 45 degrees to her body – toes pointed to the ceiling, legs straight and head at the surface (this is what we now know is a double ballet leg position). My Dad said it was impossible due to gravity etc etc. From that moment on, my Mum decided that synchronised swimming was the chosen sport for us – if only to prove my Dad wrong. My parents were both ice skaters and met on the ice, so it made sense that another artistic sport would appeal, particularly to my Mum with her creative talents.
Over time we were members of a variety of clubs, with Reading Royals SSC being my chosen club and Seymour SSC London my sisters. Seems odd that we were members of different clubs, but it made sense at the time due to the different age groups we were in. It was a huge commitment and I can remember throwing a few tantrums in my early teens as I didn’t want to go training – all my friends were out at the local disco meeting boys and having fun – so that’s what I wanted to do. I couldn’t even claim to be sick and miss training as, by now, my Mum was my coach.
At the age of 14, having qualified for the Great Britain Junior Synchronised Swimming Team it became a turning point in my life – I will forever be indebted to my parents for ‘encouraging’ me to train instead of partying as I have had the most amazing time with a sport I love. I’m lucky enough that, over the years, my career has enabled me to be a competitor (elite and masters), coach and television commentator.
Synchronised Swimming is an incredible sport to be involved in, as it teaches youngsters so many important aspects, in addition to improving overall fitness levels. You make friendships that can last a lifetime, you understand the importance of team and working with others, you can be competitive but in a controlled environment with full support of your coaches and team mates, you can be creative and artistic developing unusual choreography and wearing the most fabulous costumes. But, it also teaches discipline, to turn up for training on time, to not let your team mates down and to have the inner strength to compete at your very best for the sake of your club. All these qualities are so important in all walks of life and synchronised swimming ensures a very good foundation.
The sport has been around for many years – it originated in 1907 with Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer/actress. Most people probably remember Esther Williams, who played the part of Annette Kellerman in The Million Dollar Mermaid, along with many other screen performances. Over the years it has become a lot more competitive with clubs all across the UK and, since London 2012, there has seen an increase in youngsters taking up the sport. Club swimmers are encouraged initially to undertake certain Skill levels before being allowed to compete in competition. Once the Skill level is attained, there are a variety of different competitions to compete in, from Regional to National, both Age Group and 0pen. If you qualify to swim at the highest level there is a very strong England Talent Squad, which underpins the British Synchro World Class Programme.
Interested? To find out more about synchronised swimming and local clubs please contact www.swimming.org. It’s a wonderful sport to be involved with and you’ll receive a very warm welcome at your chosen club.