What is Artistic Swimming? (Formerly Synchronized Swimming until 2020)

The sport of artistic swimming has come a long way since its early beginnings as "water ballet" in Esther Williams’ movies. Today’s swimmer must have the grace of a ballerina, the strength and flexibility of a gymnast, the skills of a speed swimmer and water polo player, the lungs of a pearl diver, and the endurance and stamina of a long distance runner. Add to that the requirement for split-second timing and a dramatic flair for musical interpretation and choreography, and you have artistic swimming!

Is artistic swimming an Olympic sport?

Artistic swimming has been an Olympic event since 1984. The first Olympic competitions featured only the duet and solo events. In the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the team event replaced the duet and solo competition and at the 2000 Olympics, artistic swimming was represented with the duet and team events.

Can artistic swimmers touch the bottom of the pool?

Artistic swimmers do not touch the bottom of the pool during a routine. It is against the rules, and a two-point deduction will be given if they do. The water is a minimum of nine feet deep. The swimmers create the illusion of standing on their feet or hands because they are so proficient at the techniques.

Can the swimmers hear the music under water? 

Yes, artistic swimmers can hear the music underwater. The sound is supplied via underwater speakers.

Do artistic swimmers keep their eyes open under water

Artistic swimmers swim with their eyes open under water. By seeing their teammates under water, they make corrections to alignment and set-up for specific moves in their routine. When spinning upside down in the water, artistic swimmers spot the pool walls just like a figure skater, dancer or diver would to count their rotations.

How long can artistic swimmers hold their breath? 

In a three to four minute routine, an artistic swimmer may spend up to half the time underwater without coming up for air. They use their arms and legs to suspend themselves in the water. It's similar to running underwater while holding your breath at the same time. The elite-level artistic swimmer can swim up to 75 meters underwater without coming up for air.

What’s up with their hair?

To ensure their hair does not move during their routines, swimmers apply warm KNOX Gelatin to their hair. Once the KNOX dries, it forms a shell around the hair and is impervious to water. It takes a very HOT shower to get the KNOX out.

How many hours per week do artistic swimmers train, and how do they train? 

Aquanuts practice between five and 30 hours per week, depending on the age and competition level of the swimmer. While much of this time is spent in the pool, we also spend time out of the water doing strength training, stretching, and land drilling (practicing routines out of the pool). Olympic and National Team artistic swimmers practice as much as eight hours a day, six days a week!  Approximately six hours are spent in the water and an additional two hours on land with cross-training exercises such as lifting weights, biking, running, or aerobics.

What is a lift?

A lift in artistic swimming is done by raising the body of one or more swimmers up to or well above the water surface extremely high into the air. Swimmers execute lifts with only their body strength and are not allowed to use the pool bottom.

Why the makeup and glitter?

Artistic swimming uses sequined suits and makeup to enhance the performance and match the music and/or theme in the same way that artistic gymnastics and skaters do. Makeup brings out the swimmer's features, and the smiles you might see on a swimmer's face are meant to deceive the audience into believing that the performance is easy.

It looks easy, is it?

Making a routine look easy is an important part of the sport and is just one of the things that the judges look for in competition. To get a better appreciation for the demands of this sport – imagine a gymnast performing on the balance beam while holding her breath for up to half of her routine. Now throw in additional gymnasts performing the same routine concurrently and in complete synchronization!​​