Volume 94, Issue 1
Friday, May 12, 2000
Up and coming sport: swimming to the top of the pool
By Sean Maraj
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water.
In the water world, where swimming and waterpolo tend to rule, there comes the rise of ballet in the water known as synchronized swimming.
In the past five years, interest in the sport, as well as the amount of participation has begun to rise. While there are many possible reasons for this rise in interest, especially from Canada's success at the Olympics, Western head coach Hilary Brandon pointed to an increase in wanting to stay healthy as one of the major factors in increasing the synchronized swimming profile.
"It keeps you in great shape you use every part of your body and more than anything it's a team sport," she said.
Colin Timm a spokesman for Synchronized Swimming Canada who is currently at the Canadian Synchronized Swimming National Championships being held in Calgary Alberta, also pointed to a wide appeal of the sport, which is also a factor in it's increasing profile.
"It's fun and inclusive to everybody. You can do it at all levels, there's an opportunity to compete at all levels," Timm said.
Brandon also pointed out that the increase in participation, partly due to Canada's success at the Olympics, has been seen at Western where the synchronized team is one of the few that holds varsity status. The team also finished third at the Ontario University Athletics championships this past winter.
"Canada does well at the Olympics and that usually helps," Brandon said. "When I was in first year seven people were on the team, last year there were 17."
Trent University head coach Donna Burgis also stressed the impact of the Olympics. Canada has medalled everytime in the last four Olympics and looks strong to repeat this year.
"Certainly Canada's factor on the world stage is contributing to the status of it here at home and in the OUA," Burgis said.
At the same time Burgis also noted that Canada's strength on the world stage is undermining efforts to raise the profile of the sport at lower levels.
"Part of the problem of being strong at the top is that Canada went straight to winning gold [at the international level]," she said. "We put emphasis on that, there's a huge amount of room to improve the sport at the grass roots, this is a sport that can have a huge appeal."
Timm said programs have already been established to help improve the sport at the lower levels, where younger people can participate. This includes the establishment of a program called Aquafun that helps encourage younger children to have fun in the water beyond just the standard frontcrawl.
He also noted improvements in the sport can already be seen as at the national championships where 420 athletes are participating.
"We're targeting young kids, boys and girls, to learn fun in the water. Aquafun teaches kids how to have fun in the water, trying to tag high visibility with fun."
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