First Olympic Appearance: 1984
by John Gettings and Mark Zurlo
Popularized in Canada during the 1920s, this combination of ballet and gymnastics in water first caught America's attention at an exhibition at the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago. Steadily gaining popularity throughout the 1940s and 50s, it was a made a demonstration sport in 1948 and kept that status through five straight Olympic games.
In both the duet and team competitions, swimmers will perform routines that consist of boosts, twirls, kicks and spins which mirror the actions of their teammates above and below the water surface.
During a technical routine swimmers may choose their own musical accompaniment but must perform specific moves in a set order. Technical routines must be completed in less than three minutes.
In a free routine swimmers select their own music and choreography. The object is to do a flawless routine that combines difficult maneuvers and creativity. This routine has a four-minute time limit in the duet competition and five-minute limit in the team competition.
The format for judging these routines is similar to gymnastics and diving. Ten judges score performances 0-10, focusing on their execution, synchronization, and difficulty. The highest and lowest scores are thrown out and the technical merit scores are weighed at 60% of the total score. From there the total scores from the free routine and the technical routine are weighed 65 and 35% respectively. It is from this score that the winner is determined.
In Athens, eight teams and 24 duets will compete for gold at the Beijing National Aquatics Center, or "water cube," which is also home to the swimming and diving events. Among the favorites will be the U.S., the 2007 Pan American champions, and Russia, the 2007 European Synchronized Swimming Cup winners.