Synchronised Swimming

The last couple of weeks have been a bit awesome, really. I’ve trained with a couple of very lovely ACTUAL OLYMPIANS and some awesome teams (I heart you, Romford HC and Ruislip Eagles). I’ve been given an ACTUAL OLYMPIAN’s training shirt and held an ACTUAL OLYMPIAN’s medal – dammit, an ACTUAL OLYMPIAN even shared a banana with me. I’ve been introduced to a brand new sport which I might even return to at some point in the future, and discovered that hockey is far less miserable than my inner teenager’s memory would have had me believe.

I’m starting to get a little greedy now, and I’m wondering how I’m going to top this. Even if Mark Foster replied to one of my tweets, I don’t think it would add any real value (sorry Mark, but where were you when I needed you, back in August?) at this stage. I might as well just get it out of the way – there are no Olympians in this week’s post. There, I said it.

I must also apologise for the absence of photos in this post. The thing about synchronised swimming is that it does tend to appeal to the pushy mothers of young children, and apparently, it’s just not cool to take photos of children in swimming pools. I thought it best not to object in strong terms to this fairly reasonable judgement.

I went into this week’s sport with a slightly heavy heart. My post-Olympian malaise hasn’t been helped by a couple of factors. For a start, sometimes there are certain sports that I just don’t want to try, and I didn’t want to try synchronised swimming. Even if the experience of being in a diving pool during my water polo challenge hadn’t scarred me for life, I had watched some of the Olympic synchronised swimming with my brother, last summer. I have never seen anything like it – they were doing the splits and backflips over each other in the water, and I’m sure when I’d watched it as a child it wasn’t such an impressive spectacle. “They just used to stick a leg in the air, or something, didn’t they?” my brother commented at the time.

My synchro-based reticence is also related, in part, to the organisation of this event having been a total arse ache. I kept postponing, then I wouldn’t hear from the club for what felt like an age and would end up hounding the coach to the point that I started to feel like I was stalking her. The problem is, Seymour Synchro Swim School is one of only about two synchro clubs in London. Ok, so I didn’t want to try it, but there must be a million kids who like the idea of wearing ludicrous water-resistant make-up? I mean, there was a synchronised swimming club in HARWICH when I was growing up (I nearly joined – liked the idea of wearing ludicrous water-resistant make-up, you see – my life could have taken a very different direction). Why aren’t there more in London? Same old, same old, apparently. There aren’t enough diving pools, which are expensive to hire, and I’m told once again that the standard of swimming in British children is abysmal.

"Hiiiiiiiiiya!"

“Hiiiiiiiiiya!”

A synchronised swimming training session consists of two parts: an hour of body conditioning (that’s stretching, to you and me) and an hour and a half in the pool. The stretching part is fine and the coach even tells me at the end of the session, with a slightly surprised tone “you’re quite flexible actually – do you do pilates?” Boom! Yoga, actually. It’s nice to be trying a sport I’m not instantly crap at.

In the pool, however, I have to join the kid’s group. But the kids, it seems, are in the middle of learning a routine which is too complicated for me and the one other adult beginner. So we are to form our own very small, slightly dysfunctional group, in a no-man’s land between the kids and adults.

I like to watch Torvill and Dean on ITV’s Dancing on Ice, dining out on once having won an Olympic medal 29 years ago. I love it partly because they wheel out the Bolero in every single season finale and partly because of the opportunity, in the run up to this, to speculate wildly about the nature of their relationship and the reasons for Jayne Torvill’s apparent Stockholm Syndrome. The other thing I love about it is the names of all the moves. The commentator used to say things like “that’s the spangle-footed crow-lift going into a lesser-spotted-monkey spin-drop”, but he seems to have become as jaded as Jayne and latterly, just names the moves after whatever song they happen to be skating to. “That’s the Wannabe lift”, he’ll now sigh as Samia and handsome love-rat Sylvain spin around the ice, predictably clad in leopard print. I sometimes question the authenticity of these names, but to my delight, synchro, at least at this particular club, seems to have taken a similar approach to daft names.

Jayne Torvill: does she regret her life choices?

Jayne Torvill: does she regret her life choices?

First up, I’m re-introduced to the dreaded “Egg-beater”, which I first made the acquaintance of during the water polo challenge. You basically have to swing your legs round (like an egg-beater – see what they did, there?), from the hip, one at a time, super-fast. This allows you to a) not sink and b) (if you can actually master it) get a bit of height out of the water. I can’t master it and I am presented with a foam noodle to wrap around my waist. Then we are taught to move sideways whilst er, egg-beating. I consider the likelihood of my being able to, er, egg-beat whilst in motion if I can’t master it from a stationary position. That said, the noodle takes the rather unpleasant possibility of drowning  out of the equation, and I do appear to be moving. After this we try some sculling, which I’m deemed to be quite good at, and I’m starting to feel a little smug. Lifting a knee to my chest whilst doing this does present some issues, however.

On to the “Splishy breast-stroke”. It’s like breast-stroke but, as the name would suggest, it has splishes. But it’s not exactly the same as breast stroke- you’re supposed to be swimming with your head and shoulders out of the water (so that the judges can see your ludicrously made up face) which you achieve by dropping your hips. As someone who’s almost blind, swimming poses a bit of a dilemma for me – swim blind without corrective visual aids or chlorinate my contact lenses/eyeballs. It’s safer for the general public if I go with the contact lenses, but I try to limit the interaction they have with chlorine by keeping my head as far out of the water as possible. Consequently, I’m quite good at this stroke and the now baffled coach comments “that’s really not bad at all, actually”.

The next iteration of the splishy breast-stroke is the splishy flicky breast-stroke, which just means you flick your arm out behind you after you’ve splished. I’m also, quite good at this and I feel super smug, now. Maybe this is my sport?

On the basis of later attempts at a backward-roll, which largely involve me lying static on my back, like a an upended tortoise in the water, flailing desperately to get enough momentum to turn myself over, I can confirm that this is not my sport, but I’m giving myself the gold medal anyway, because I was actually alright at it. I’ve been quite selfless over the last few weeks in my medal-awarding and I need something to get me through my post-Olympian come-down.

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

Jen

7

8

1

16

Jade

2

1

3

Gemma

2

2

Nick

2

2

Chloe Rogers

1

1

GB Handball

1

1

John

1

1

Naomi

1

1

Otter Water Polo

1

1

Romford HC

1

1

Ruislip Eagles

1

1

Steve

1

1

Simon

2

2

Uncle Becky

2

2

Ali

1

1

James

1

1

My Mum

1

1

Nic

1

1

Pete

1

1

Harriet

1

1

 

© Inspire a Jen, 2013.

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