Don't be Fooled by the Smiles - Synchro Swimming is Serious Business

Synchronised Swimming | Published: Mon 1 August 2016

Don’t be fooled by the smiles of Australia’s synchronised swimming team. It’s all part of the professional show.


Team member Danielle Kettlewell said one of her favourite things about the sport is the person it has made her become through a carefully balanced understanding of artistic expression and athleticism.


"Although it may not initially be perceived, synchro is ruthless and tough, it makes you into a fighter,” she said.


"I have learnt to portray the grace of a ballet dancer while having the fight of a boxer and the trust in my teammates of an eight man rowing team.”


Many spectators may be surprised to think of synchronised swimming as a fiercely competitive, physically demanding sport.


However, Danielle likens it to most elite sports with the added pressure of holding your breath 50 per cent of the time.


"I think a lot of the criticism around people doubting synchro as a sport is that they see synchro at the surface level of being a performance and being 'easy' because we smile in most of our routines.


"Letting that smile fool you is part of our job as synchronise swimmers, but never misjudge that smile for ease.”


The lead up to Rio Olympics has been a rollercoaster for Canadian-born Kettlewell, who lives in Perth, and her eight teammates who are spread throughout the country.


Since qualifying for Rio at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, last July, the team has welcomed new coach Lilianne Grenier and had to reduce its numbers from 12 people to nine.


Prior to Worlds the team worked on strengthening their unity through training camps at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for two weeks of each month. Since April this year they have "centralized” by splitting training between Perth, Canberra and international competition.


This step has been crucial for allowing the team to improve beyond their performance in Kazan.


"Being a team that comes from three separate states we have all sacrificed time from our family and 'centralizing' which is a loose term because we have popped between Canberra, Perth and international competitions,” Kettlewell said.

"We are confident that we can deal with anything thrown at us in Rio.”


At London the Australian team performed to an AC/DC medley and in Rio the team’s routines will still have a distinctly patriotic feel. When the team competes on Thursday 18 August, spectators should expect touches of Australian flora and fauna including moves inspired by the crocodile.


This will be Kettlewell’s Olympic debut and she will be supported by captain Bianca Hammett who is the only team member with Games experience, having competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games.


After watching the Games since childhood Kettlewell is thrilled at the chance to walk in the Opening Ceremony and perform on the international stage.


"I can only imagine how proud, fulfilled and overwhelmed I will feel when, after years of religiously watching Opening Ceremonies, I get the opportunity to walk into one myself,” she said.


Candice Keller