Synchronized swimming shines
Calgary’s Aquabelles swim club hopes students dive into the sport
It’s a precise sport that looks so effortless it was once called water ballet. But organizers of a school preview hope students see the strength, control and flexibility required by synchronized swimming and are encouraged to dive right in.
Almost 100 youngsters from Annie Foote and Keeler elementary schools get a front-row seat Tuesday at the Talisman Centre as Calgary’s lauded synchronized swim club, the Aquabelles, prepare for national championships this week.
The grades 2, 3 and 4 students have been working on assignments that promote an active lifestyle by learning about synchronized swimming. Watching the athletes prepare for a major championship through Synchro Canada’s School Program gives their classroom lessons some real life perspective.
“The whole premise of this program is to promote the sport. It’s a bit of a hidden gem and some people don’t know much about it,” said Jenn Tregale, head coach of the Aquabelles and the junior national team. She said the need to attract new athletes has doubled as boys are now competing in synchronized swimming.
“If we can put the bug in their ear and show them it’s OK for boys to do synchro, maybe we’ll get some new kids this week. Obviously we want to target little girls, too. Hopefully, with this program and the championships, we’ll spark some interest this week.”
To help the students from the Forest Lawn and Temple schools understand the sport, 1996 Olympic silver medallist Cari Din will be on hand. Din competed for 18 years, 10 on the national team, and represented Canada at more than 40 international events, medalling at every one.
The 2016 Shiseido Canadian Open kicks off Wednesday and runs through Sunday. More than 225 synchronized swimmers from 24 clubs across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Colombia and Puerto Rico will compete in junior (16-18) and senior classes. The championships are the culmination of the 2016 competitive season and there are 10 national titles up for grabs.
The Aquabelles combo team is vying for its sixth consecutive title while the junior team, which came first in last month’s national qualifying event in Quebec City, also has its sights set on gold. Halle Pratt, 17, is looking to defend her crown in solo and she is one of three Aquabelles recently named to the Junior National Team going to the FINA Junior World Championships in Kazan, Russia, this summer.
“It’s the most exciting thing for the girls to be able to perform in front of family and friends and show off their hard work,” said Tregale.
The championships feature a welcoming ceremony at the Talisman Centre on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The Calgary Tower will sport special red and white LED lighting that day to welcome the participants.
A Gala of Champions will cap the event on Saturday at 6 p.m. This special water show will feature national champions from some of the week’s 10 events, as well as showcase international athletes and their teams.
The public is welcome to attend, with all-event packages available at the door for $30. Single-day tickets for April 27 through April 30 are $12.