Synchronized Swimming: “It’s Like Running a Marathon Without Breathing”


“It’s like doing a full dance routine, but holding your breath half the time.”

That’s how 17-year-old Katie Ward describes synchronized swimming, a sport that will make a big splash in Grand Rapids this weekend.

As part of the Meijer State Games of Michigan, synchronized swimmers from across the state will make their way to the pool at East Kentwood High School on Sunday, June 21. The competition begins at 11 a.m.

With routines that can last as long as four minutes, Ward said synchronized swimmers need to be in great shape to endure staying afloat in the water, not to mention executing moves akin to cheerleading and dance.

SYNCHRO 1“The synchronized part isn’t that hard. The hardest part is having the stamina to get through that much of a routine,” Ward said. “It’s much more difficult than people think it is.”

Tournament Director Erin O’Brien is Ward’s coach at Athens High School in Troy, where Ward will be entering her senior year. O’Brien said swimmers competing on Sunday range in age from eight to women in their 70s in the masters division.

Since the sport isn’t hugely popular, O’Brien said it’s a very tight-knit community. Competitors often cheer each other on at meets. Many high school athletes go on to become coaches, and a lot of times, coaches end up judging competitions.

“It’s really a lifetime sport,” she said.

Judges look for performances that look effortless, although O’Brien agreed with Ward’s sentiments that it’s anything but.

“It’s like running a marathon without breathing,” she said.

The synchronized swimming competition is one of the first events of the Meijer State Games of Michigan, the signature event of the West Michigan Sports Commission. The games are a multi-sport, Olympic-style event that welcomes athletes regardless of age or ability. Most events take place June 25-28. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor.

Find out what it takes to be a synchronized swimmer at this weekend’s Meijer State Games of Michigan event. Find a full sports line-up here.

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Photos courtesy of the Troy Synchro Sharkettes/Erin O’Brien

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