What is Artistic Swimming?

Formerly known as synchronised swimming artistic swimming is a blend of gymnastics and dance in water to music. Competition routines can be performed alone as a solo, in a pair as a duet, or in teams of 8 - 10 athletes. At our club we also swim teams of 3 - 40 in our annual show.

It takes dedication, power, strength and grace to be an artistic swimmer at the highest level. At Medway Artistic Swimming Club we focus on fun and personal achievement whilst encouraging athletes into a long term love of the sport.

Below are some things that you may not know about artistic swimming:

It's not just for girls. Although artistic swimming is one of only two sports contested solely by women at the Olympics, the Artistic Swimming World Championships does contain a mixed duet category. More and more boys and men are taking up the sport across the world.

You don't have to give up artistic swimming when you become an adult. There is a growing population of masters artistic swimmers in the UK and there are opportunities to train for fitness, fun or competitively. Masters refers to anyone over the age of 18 and as long as you want to keep training there is a place for you at our club.

Artistic swimmers do not use goggles in competition and train to swim with their eyes open underwater. They wear nose clips to stop the water from going up their nose whilst upside down underwater – not a pleasant experience for anyone. Most athletes will have a spare, or even two, tucked away in their costume in case they lose one mid routine. This happens more often than you may think and the athletes have to become adept at retrieving a spare and putting it on whilst still keeping up with their team mates.

There is a speaker that lets the athletes listen to the music underwater. This ensures that they keep the correct counts to improve synchronisation. If the music stops during a competition the athletes are expected to continue with their routine until the referee blows the whistle to stop them. Knowing the counts for each movement and pattern change is the most important part of a synchro routine. Athletes practice on dry land (known as a walk through) often using counts without the music to make sure that they are completely synchronised.

In competition the athletes are not allowed to touch the pool floor, as this will result in a points deduction. So all those lifts you see looking so effortless are made up of pure swimmer power with no help from a solid surface.

The costumes are made for the athletes to complement the music choice. According to FINA regulations the costumes must be one-piece and in “good moral taste”. This means not too revealing or transparent. Costumes will be checked prior to the athletes taking to the pool. Although they often look very high cut at a distance they often have skin coloured panels to protect the athletes modesty.

Artistic swimming is often ridiculed for the “deckwork”. The athletes have 30 seconds from passing the designated starting point to becoming stationary. Once the music begins the athletes have 10 seconds to enter the water. Going over these time limits will result in a time penalty. This does not get judged and is purely scene setting and whilst some see it as unnecessary others see it as adding to the performance as a whole. We'll leave you to make up your own mind.