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10 things you didn’t know about Artistic Swimming

Author imageAOC07 Dec 2020
Artistic swim team - Photo Canberra

With Australia's Artistic Swimmers just announced for Tokyo 2020, what better time to get to know more about this elegant yet excitingly acrobatic watersport?

What is Artistic Swimming?  

Artistic Swimming is a blend of acrobatics, swimming and dance, coordinated into a routine format and accompanied by music. Artistic swimmers require incredible strength, flexibility, grace, artistry and long underwater endurance.  

What is the difference between sychronised swimming and Artistic Swimming?  

There is no difference between sychronised swimming and Artistic Swimming, it is simply a name change. The name was changed by FINA in July 2017 in an attempt to rebrand the sport and boost its popularity, aligning it with similar disciplines such as gymnastics.  

When did Artistic Swimming make its Olympic debut? 

Artistic Swimming became an Olympic sport at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, featuring solo and duet events. In Atlanta 1996 the solo and duet events were replaced by an eight-person water ballet, however, since Sydney 2000 the Olympic program has included the team and duet event.

WATCH / Meet The Team - Artistic Swimming

What Artistic Swimming events are on the program for Tokyo 2020? 

At Tokyo 2020, Artistic Swimming will have both a team event and a duet event. The team event is comprised of eight athletes, while, the duet is comprised of two athletes. Both events feature a technical routine, lasting a maximum 2 minutes 50 seconds, and a free routine which lasts three to four minutes. 

The technical routine requires athletes to execute a series of prescribed movements and positions, while the free routine has no required elements to perform, meaning there is a much greater emphasis on the creativity of choreography and movement. 

Alongside rhythmic gymnastics, artistic swimming is the only exclusively female Olympic sport.  

What is Australia’s best Olympic result in Artistic Swimming?  

Australia has participated in artistic swimming at every Olympic Games since its inception, except 1996. Australia’s best results have been: Team - seventh (2004); Duets - 13th by Donella Burridge/Lisa Steanes in 1984 and Lisa Lieschke/Semon Rohloff in 1988. 

How is Artistic Swimming judged?  

Routines are scored out of 100, with points awarded for execution, artistic impression and difficulty.  

Performers are scored by three panels, each comprising five judges. In the technical routine, one panel of judges scores athletes' technical execution, while another scores their choreography, use of music, synchronisation, difficulty and presentation. The third panel of judges scores the elements (five designated movements). 

In the free routine, one panel of judges scores athletes' execution, synchronisation and difficulty, while another scores their choreography, musical interpretation and presentation. The third panel scores difficulty. 

What is the size of the performance space?  

Swimmers are confined to a 12x12m competition area. The pool is just under 3 meters in depth, and swimmers are not permitted to touch the bottom throughout their performance.  

How long can the athletes hold their breath for?  

While some Artistic Swimmers can hold their breath for up to three minutes, most routines only require swimmers to hold their breath for up to one minute. Nose-clips are used to help the swimmers hold their breath while underwater, particularly while they are upside down. 

How do the athletes stay afloat in the water?  

Artistic swimmers must continuously tread water, using the eggbeater technique, throughout their performance to stay above the water. Competitors also use techniques such as sculling, in which they move their hands through the water to hold their position or move.  

How does an Artistic Swimmer's makeup and hair stay in place?  

Artistic Swimmer's layer on water-proof makeup so that the judges can clearly see their expressive faces throughout the performance. In addition, they use Knox gelatin in their hair, so it stays in place during their performance.