While the first synchronized swimming competition was recorded in the late 1800s in Berlin, synchro wasn’t recognized as an Olympic sport until the 1984 Summer Olympic games. Involving swimming, dance, and gymnastics, synchronized swimming routines are choreographed to music and are truly amazing to behold. The graceful sport looks effortless, but requires what seems like a never-ending training schedule. As such, beautiful synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez, is one busy person! Anita and her teammate, Victoria Woroniecki, are hard at work to prepare for the rigorous upcoming synchro schedule where they will represent Team USA in the summer championship duet competition.
Twenty-year-old Anita filled us in on her intense training schedule: In the months leading up to big competitions (like now), she and Victoria begin their day at 7 o'clock in the morning and end at 5 o'clock. They spend an hour and half doing various cross-training activities, including Pilates and weight training, and besides a quick lunch, they are in the pool the rest of the day doing speed swims for endurance and practicing their routines. I asked her if she ever dreaded going in the water over and over, and she shared that sometimes just diving in can be the hardest part. She finds motivation in thinking about how hard she has worked and how far she has come; She now finds herself a role model for younger swimmers – the type of swimmer she used to look up to!
Anita’s mother is a synchronized swim coach, so she was always surrounded by synchro. After trying other sports, she found herself drawn back to synchro because it combines everything she loves - swim, dance, gymnastics. Though she is currently enjoying competing at a high level, she found early on that she also loves to perform! Once choreographed by others, routines have shifted over time to be more of a collaborative effort between athletes and coaches. Anita shares that routines feel more natural when coaches and swimmers work together. Routines are inherently dynamic and change constantly based on feedback from coaches and judges after competitions; It will never look the same from beginning to end and will be fine-tuned even on the day of a competition.
In addition to the physical aspect of competition, synchro swimmers are also performers, and definitely dress the part. Instead of swim caps, they create a “wet look” by using clear gelatin to slick back their hair – once hardened, the gelatin creates a surface for ornate headpieces. Makeup is dramatic and of course, waterproof . Lastly, they don a fantastic competition suit. This process helps to tame Anita's nerves as just sitting around makes her anxious. She also finds that practice is a major way she keeps from getting nervous. Being prepared keeps her motivated and confident, which she needs to keep her work looking effortless and fun – judges can tell when you are nervous!
Anita has very little downtime as, in addition to all of the training, she has physical therapy and works (yep, she works)! College is on hold right now so she can focus more on competition. However, many of the younger athletes will take classes online so that they can be more flexible with training. Anita says she particularly loves the travel involved in competition because she enjoys seeing different cultures. While she has little time to do touristy sightseeing, she enjoys trying new foods, picking up a few words in a new language, and realizing new ways of life. She would love to go back to visit several countries when not competing including Italy and stop by some she has yet to visit like Australia.
We can't wait to cheer Anita and her partner Victoria on this summer! Follow their successes on www.teamusa.org and @usasynchr