SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING: It’s a new year, a new Olympic cycle and a new-look squad for the Australian Synchronised Swimming Team.
Selection trials in April saw only five Olympians from the Rio Games staying in the squad of 12 and the new team is working hard to be in top form for the 2017 World Championships in July.
One familiar face from the Rio squad is still evident in the team, but notably missing from the water.
Dual Olympian Bianca Hammett has swapped her swimmers for the whistle and taken on a new role as assistant coach and team manager after retiring from the sport post-Rio.
While watching her former teammates compete from the sideline was always going to be hard, Hammett is really pleased with the progress the new squad has made so far.
The team recently competed at the Spanish Open, which forms part of the new FINA Synchronized Swimming World Series.
In the Canary Islands, Spain, Australia placed sixth out of 11 teams for the technical routine and sixth out of 13 teams for the free routine. This secured them a sixth place overall, and fifth place internationally as they competed against numerous Spanish teams at their home event.
“The team performed really well,” Hammett said.
“It was their first international event as a new team, so it was a chance to see how everyone handled the pressure and see what they like to do in the final minutes before competing.
“It was a learning experience, a chance for the team to better know each other and see what it is like to compete on an international stage before heading to this year’s FINA World Championships.”
While there is still work to do before next month’s World Championships, Hammett said the five Olympians still in the team have been sharing their experiences with the new members and she was impressed with how quickly the team gelled.
“The team for Rio was very close and were together a long time before the event. This team has not had that luxury (yet), however they have really stepped up and bonded quickly,” the former team captain said.
“Synchro is a team sport where you rely on each other and you need to trust your teammates.
“The team stayed together on site during the camp leading into the Spanish Open which I believe contributed to them coming together as a team so quickly.”
“Watching from the sideline is always hard, it is something I have experienced before as a swimmer due to injury.
“It’s more nerve racking than actually swimming because you have no control.
“In the water you can control what you do – I was always nervous walking out, but once I dove in the water, the nerves were replaced with enjoyment. Watching from the sidelines I never dive in so the nerves are there the whole swim!
“However, as a coach, I actually felt less nervous.
“As coaches, our job ends once we part ways just prior to the team competing. I had control leading up to that moment and did all I could to help get them to that point.
“I feel more proud then nervous watching the team swim.”
The team are back in Australia now, further improving their strengths and working on their weakness as identified at the Spanish Open.
They will next compete at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary from July 14-30.
Members of the new Australian Synchronised Swimming Team:
Hannah Cross (Rio 2016), Jane Fruzynski, Kiera Gazzard, Danielle Kettlewell (Rio 2016), Kirsten Kinash, Erica Li, Sue-Ann Lim, Nikita Pablo (Rio 2016), Rachel Presser, Emily Rogers (Rio 2016), Amie Thompson (Rio 2016), and Kazia Zenke.