Ella Claydon had finished with dancing but loved the pool. Synchronised swimming was a perfect fit.
“She went for a look-see,” says Mum Lorna Claydon. “And she absolutely fell in love with the sport.”
Middle Claydon Lucy watched Ella having fun and wanted part of it. And number three, a wee poppet called Bella – well, as soon as she could swim a length, she also wanted to be a synchronised swimmer, despite some developmental issues she lives with. That’s three of five Claydons captured by the sport.
Lorna was delivering the swimmers to Baywave for two hour training sessions five nights a week, and being a constant presence around the pool, she was roped into being a parent judge. Four of five.
That leaves Dad Adrian. Every day after training he asks the Claydon girls which team won. “So he jokingly encourages them in their chosen sport.
“He has learned to do a very good synchronised swimmers bun,” says Lorna. And he will be Dad in charge this weekend. Lorna is away so Adrian will have three buns to do for a display tomorrow – a full dress rehearsal for the upcoming New Zealand National Synchronised Swimming Championships to be held at the Moana Pool in Dunedin on September 28.
And the Claydons will descend en masse. “We will hire a camper van – the alternative being 72 hours sitting beside a swimming pool,” jokes Lorna. But there’s undeclared commitment from the girls. “They just love going to training,” says Lorna. “They don’t mind doing other things as long as it doesn’t mess with their training.”
People are becoming increasingly respectful of synchronised swimming as they get to know more about it. “And there’s something very serene about being under the water. It’s a very cerebral sport, lots of thinking, lots of multi-tasking, but yet very calm under the water.”
And Lorna says increasingly people realise it's a challenging sport that demands a high level of fitness, high levels of core strength, musicality and artistry.
Sixteen-year-old Ella Claydon has amassed a number of medals – at this year’s North Island champs she won gold for her solo and was part of the gold winning ten-person, open free combo team. She won gold and two silvers at last year’s nationals and this year will compete in a solo, duet and part of the club’s ten-person open combo team.
In her second year of synchronised swimming Lucy is part of the nine-person Dolphin team vying for the beginners’ trophy. Their Flintstones themed routine won bronze at the North Island champs this year and they have been working on perfecting it for the nationals.
And Bella, in her first year, learns Adapted Synchro – specialised one-on-one coaching which provides an opportunity to get involved in the sport and perform in front of a crowd. And Bella will be performing to the crowd at the dress rehearsal this weekend.
It’s not unusual to have family involvement in synchronised swimming, according to Kate Boyt, chair of Tauranga Synchro. “One sibling will start and others will follow. We have a number of families with two sisters swimming with us. The club is very family-focused.”
An interesting factoid - synchronised swimming is one of just two exclusively female Olympic disciplines. The other is rhythmic gymnastics. So not one bloke in the water at the national synchro champs in Dunedin.