Synchro 101


Artistic Swimming (aka synchro) was formerly called synchronized swimming until 2017 when FINA, the governing body of the sport, voted to change the name. Artistic Swimming was first included in the 1984 Olympics with the solo and duet events, this changed in 1996 when both events were replaced by the team event. The duet event was reintroduced in 2000 and both the team and duet event have remained ever since.

Artistic Swimming Events

  • Figures: figures are pre-determined movements performed individually in front of a panel of judges without music. Figures are determined by age group group and consist of one compulsory group (of two figures) and three optional groups (each containing another two figures). At a competition a swimmer will perform four figures total, two compulsory and two optional figures. The optional figures are drawn by the chief referee anywhere from 72 hours prior to the competition up to two weeks before.
  • Solo: as the name suggests the solo event consists of a single swimmer performing to a piece of music.
  • Duet: the duet event consists of two swimmers performing together to a piece of music, however, a third swimmer may be listed as an alternate to the duet in the event that one of the swimmers are ill or injured.
  • Mixed Duet: first included in a world championship in 2015 the mixed duet consists of a male and female athlete performing together to a piece of music. The introduction of the mixed duet marked the first time men were permitted to compete at a world championship event.
  • Team: a full team typically consists of 8 swimmers and 2 alternates, however, certain rule books allow as few as 4 and as many as 10 swimmers in the water at a time.
  • Combo: officially known as the free combination event consists of 10 swimmers (& 2 alternates) and showcases the different types of routines performed in artistic swimming throughout. In this event you'll see various combinations of swimmers performing smaller sections of routines (ie. solo, duet, trios, groups of four, etc.).
  • Highlight: the highlight routine is the newest event introduced by FINA and was first included in a world championship in 2019. Similar to the combo this routines features 10 swimmers in the water at once. The highlight routine focuses on the acrobatic strength and artistic impression of the sport. In additional to breathtaking acrobatic displays the highlight routines must also showcase a kaleidoscope effect which shows tribute to artistic swimming's origins as "water ballet" in the early 1900's.
  • Technical Routines: technical routines are routines with set requirements that are performed in place of the figure event. These events focus on the synchronization and technical ability of the swimmers and do not allow the same freedoms of choreography as the free routines. Technical routines are performed in the Junior and Senior categories at national and international events.

Age Groups

In Canada artistic swimming is broken down into different age groups and a swimmers age group is determined by their birth year (ie. age by December 31 of the competition year) to prevent anybody needing to switch age groups during the season. In Canada the age groups are as follows:

  • 10 & Under
  • 11-12
  • 13-15
  • 16-20 (Provincial stream only)
  • Junior (15-18 for National stream)
  • Senior (15+ for National stream)
  • Masters (19+)

Scoring System

As a judged sport artistic swimming is scored from 0 to 100 by a panel of judges in three different categories: Execution, Artistic Impression and Difficulty.

  • Execution Score: The execution score counts for 30% of the final score (or 40% in Canada for 12 & under). What is considered here is the level of excellence in performing highly specialized skills as well as the synchronization, whether between each swimmer or with the music (in solo).
  • Artistic Impression: The artistic impression score accounts for 40% of the final score. Here judges consider the choreography and creativity, music interpretation and manner of presentation.
  • Difficulty Score: Finally, the difficulty score weighs 30% in the final result (or 20% in Canada for 12 & under). No surprises there, the difficulty of movement is evaluated here.

A full panel of judges consists of five judges for each category and for each panel, the highest and lowest scores are cancelled.

Did you know?

  • No touching the bottom allowed! If a swimmer touches the bottom or the wall during a routine the routine will be given a penalty. Swimmers use combinations of eggbeater, flutter kick and sculling to keep them up during the routine .
  • While swimmers use goggles during practice they are not allowed to be used during routine events at competitions.
  • Swimmers use nose plugs while swimming to keep water from going up their nose while upside down!
  • Swimmers use Knox gelatin to keep their hair in place during a competition.
  • In addition to putting every movement in a routine to a count of eight swimmers use underwater speakers in order to hear the music while underwater.
  • At the beginning of a routine swimmers have up to 10 seconds on deck once the music starts to get in the water, after that the routine is given a penalty.
  • Artistic swimming is one of two female only sports at the Olympics (the other being rhythmic gymnastics). However, with the recent inclusion of the mixed duet at the world championships many countries are fighting for the inclusion of the mixed duet event at future Olympic games.
  • Routine times vary according to age group and routine length with the longest routines being 4 minutes and the shortest just over a minute.
  • Swimmers use a technique called land drill to practice the movements of the routine on land before attempting them in the water.
  • Competition swimsuits are created to match the music and/or theme of each routine and often include hundreds of gems or sequins that are applied one by one to help catch the viewers eye in the water.
  • While swimmers wear eye-catching creations for routines, during the figure events all swimmers must wear a black suit and white hat!

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