Synchronized Swimming has a very rich history dating back to Ancient Rome. However, at the beginning of the 20th Century and in modern day times, the historical timeline becomes very thick with many notable people involved. For the purpose of attempting to document when and where athletes with disabilities 'may' have been involved after Annette Kellerman(an athlete with a disability-AWD) opened the doors, we have noted below, a timeline which would be significant in our opinion, of how Synchronized Swimming evolved, particularly in Canada & USA with important dates leading up to the current movement for Paralympic Games. We do not know how many times it may have been attempted in any one Country, but what we do know, is that since its inception as an Olympic sport in 1984, Canada has been the only 'known' Country to advocate for it as a 'Paralympic Sport'. Again, we wish to stress that this is NOT a complete timeline and only a brief historical look into imagining at what point an AWD may have followed & participated in Synchronized Swimming and at what point they may have disappeared from the sport. Helping us with a portion of the timeline of AWD, was Coach Marion Kane Elston of California, who passed away in late 2015. We were fortunate to learn from her that she had at least 5 AWD's in Synchro in the 60s & 70s. She was well aware of their presence from the 1940s and beyond, but it was considered a 'stigma' and 'disadvantage' to even mention that an athlete had a physical or intellectual disability, especially in Synchro, since it was not even an Olympic sport. It was a tough enough battle to see 'Synchro' through as an Olympic sport, let alone advocate for it in any games that included disabled athletes.  Coach Marion says when 'Synchro' became  a 'powerhouse' sport, the AWD knew they did not have a chance at exceling, competing and doing the moves that the non-disabled swimmers could, so the remaining AWD swimmers she had on her team and elsewhere, quit in the 80s and early 90s. She promised a renewed effort in July 2015 to bring back AWD in Synchro and to see it through as a long overdue 'Paralympic' and 'Special Olympic' sport, but she passed away later that year before we could even benefit from her help and expertise. We dedicate this section to Coach Marion of the Redwood Empire Aquastars, California

RIP Coach Marion!

Synchronized Swimming, now called 'Artistic Swimming', was born from ‘water ballet’ and 'rhythmic swimming' which is a hybrid form of Swimming combined with dance, gymnastics and music. It is an aquatics art, rich in history and sportsmanship long before it was termed it's 'official name'.

  • 46BC-Early roots in Ancient Rome during the Roman Era: Large re-enactment Naval Battles called ‘Naumachia’ (Naw-Mey-Kea). by Julius Caesar which also included ‘Aquatic Performances’ by women who played  roles as ‘water nymphs’ which became the forerunner to modern synchronized swimming

  • 1891-The first recorded competition (water ballet) was in Berlin, Germany. The sport also simultaneously developed in Canada.

  • 1900's- At the turn of the 20th century, synchronized swimming was known as water ballet, then as 'rhythmic swimming' in the USA.

  • 1907-Australian Swimmer and Aquatics Artist, Annette Kellerman popularized the sport when she performed in a glass tank as an underwater ballerina (the first water ballet in a glass tank) in the New York Hippodrome.  It is important to NOTE: that Annette Kellerman was the only ‘Known’ and perhaps the FIRST athlete with a disability (Polio/Infantile Paralysis) to perform water ballet combined with swimming and diving.  She did this for therapeutic purposes so she wouldn’t have to grow up wearing painful metal leg braces and to help ease her permanent disability as a result of contracting Polio.

  • 1924- The first water ballet competition in North America was in Montreal, (Quebec) Canada

  • 1934- During an Aquatics show, featuring ‘Rhythmic Swimming’ in Chicago, the announcer coincidentally introduced the sport as "Synchronized Swimming" for the first time. The term eventually became standardized through the Sports Federation known as the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union).

  • 1939- The first U.S. Synchronized Swimming competition took place in Chicago.

  • 1952- Synchronized Swimming was popularized by a series of movies starring Esther Williams and particularly one, where she portrayed Annette Kellerman in a biography called ‘Million Dollar Mermaid’.

  • 1952-(Helsinki, Finland) The first Olympic Demonstration of Synchronized Swimming.

  • 1960-Disability games (known as 'Paraplegic/Parallel Games') were established during the Olympics from 1948, and later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries, but Synchronized Swimming was not a sport in the Olympics nor the Paralympics.

  • 1968-Synchronized Swimming becomes an officially recognized sport by FINA as the 4th water sport next to swimming, platform diving and water polo.

  • 1984-Synchronized Swimming becomes an Olympic sport.

  • 1988-Canada begins documenting AWD in Synchronized Swimming.

  • 1989-The International Paralympic Committee was founded as an international non-profit organization in Germany to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. Canada is the only known Country to inquire about AWD for Synchronized Swimming.

The word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para” (beside or alongside) and the word “Olympic”. Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.

      2001-Canada includes the Canadian University Synchronized Swimming League. There are   currently 14 universities from 5 provinces that are part of the league which includes AWD.

    2005-Canada forms a bond with Japan and attempts to extend the outreach internationally.

  • 2008-After 20 years of AWD in Synchro, Synchro Canada advocates for Synchronized swimming to become a Canadian Paralympic sport and succeeds but only as an applicant sport since there were no other Country Federations with Synchronized swimming as an approved Paralympic Sport. The AWD category in Canadian Synchro competitions & exhibitions continued to grow, but not internationally. Sometime after 2010, some International clubs and teams such as Japan, Mexico, Italy and the UK included AWD in their training or formed teams for disability exhibitions/competitions. However, they did not have any grass roots movement to promote AWD for mainstream International competitions and future Paralympic games.

  • June 2013-After being told she could not make the 13-15 age group synchro team, Raquel Boales of the United States, begins research into why synchronized swimming had not been included as a Paralympic sport globally. Cooperating with USA Synchro, the American Federation for Synchronized Swimming, began the research for a movement, which reaches Synchro officials in Canada.

  • June 2014-Raquel Boales invited by Synchro Canada to compete in their Canadian Synchro Nationals. 1st time for an American Synchro AWD to compete in another Country. She becomes the 1st American Intl AWD Synchro Champion, winning Gold for figures and solo.

  • Feb. 2015-Raquel Boales along with coaches and other parents (from USA & Canada) formulate a plan to start a nonprofit named Synchronized Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities (‘Synchro AWD’) to include a global movement to formally add synchronized swimming for athletes with disabilities in sports programs, teams and clubs as well as to identify existing programs globally. In Dec. 2015, Synchro AWD becomes a Non-profit in the USA.

  • June 2015-Synchro AWD in conjunction with Synchro Taiwan host the 1st Synchro AWD Symposium & Exhibition with 7 other clubs/teams from Countries which also included swimmers from Russia, Brazil, USA, Canada, Japan, Mexico and Israel.

  • Dec. 2015-Royal Spanish Federation with encouragement and advice from Synchro AWD, hosts the 1st Synchro AWD Camp & Exhibition with clubs from Spain, USA, UK, Italy and Portugal.

  • April 2016-Raquel Boales becomes one of the youngest certified synchro coaches for USA Synchro and starts the 1st 'adapted' Synchro club (Bay Area Synchro) in the USA, specifically with a program to train Synchro AWD using innovative techniques to train AWD swimmers.

  • May 2016-Japanese Synchronized Swimming Association-for people with disabilities (JSSA) hosts the 25th ParaSynchro Exhibition and includes Brazil and USA. They had previously included Canada in 2005. They express their interest in Synchro as a Paralympic sport.

  • July 2016-USA Synchro announces the formation of an ‘Ad Hoc’ AWD Committee and names CEO Myriam Glez, National Team Coach Lolli Montico and Synchro AWD President Tina Boales to study and move forth with formally including the Federation with the Synchro AWD movement.

  • Sept. 2016-Synchro AWD invited to speak and demonstrate synchro 'land drills' and "Why Synchronized Swimming should become a Paralympic sport' at the IPC sponsored ICSEMIS Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

  • Sept. 2016-Brazil’s Inspara Institute (formed from inspiration from Synchro AWD) in cooperation with Synchro AWD hosts the 2nd Synchro AWD Symposium & ParaSynchro Exhibition with clubs/teams from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, and Paraguay at the beginning of the Rio Paralympics Week. Awareness has now reached not only those involved with Olympics Games, but with Paralympic Games as well. The movement has now been recognized internationally.

  • Jan.2017-The Synchro AWD Grass Roots movement has reached clubs, teams and individuals in over 15 Countries. Many others are considering adding AWD as part of their program. 

  • June 2017-Mexico becomes the SECOND Country to officially host AWD as a category in their International Synchro Open in Cancun. Raquel Boales takes home the Gold Medal for the USA .This has now become an annual competition for AWD in hopes to be counted for future Paralympic Games.

  • July 2017-FINA, the World's Aquatic Federation, votes to re-name Synchronized Swimming to 'Artistic Swimming', ending the over 70 year reign of the global name. Many AWDs around the World applauded the name change for many reasons, but specifically, it reflects a sport that can serve any qualified athlete with any ability.

  • Dec. 2017-Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) recognizes Synchronized Swimming in it's annual report as one of it's sports it supports for global athlete grants for AWDs with physical disabilities. Raquel Boales was their 1st recipient in 2015. They have provided several grants to swimmers in many Countries.

  • April 2018-Jamaica hosts it's first exhibition for AWD at its Carifta Intl Aquatic Games. Raquel Boales was the featured athlete. Jamaica is home to a few AWDs in Synchro and they are considering becoming a part of the growing movement to advocate for AWD in International Games.

  • May 2018-Japan becomes the THIRD Country to host an International Parasynchro Competition for AWD Soloists. USA, Brazil, Mexico, and Italy represent AWD swimmers from their clubs. Raquel Boales from the USA takes home the Gold Medal for AWD-Physical. Also from the same team, representing the USA, Adriana Burt earned the Silver Medal-Intellectual.

  • Dec.2018-Synchro Finland is added to the AWD grassroots movement after adding a small team of AWD swimmers in Helsinki. This is historically significant as Finland was the FIRST Country to host a demonstration of Synchronized Swimming in 1952 for Olympics Games. (See above timeline-1952).

  • Jan.2019-Bay Area Synchro~Artistic Swimming, a California team formed in 2016 by Int'l AWD Synchro Champion Raquel Boales, is almost at full capacity with 12 Swimmers, with 75% of the team being AWD swimmers with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Three of it's AWD Intermediate swimmers holds the Gold and Silver medals in local, non-disabled competitions for 2018. This is significant because it proves and represents that there are qualified AWD Synchro Swimmers (and globally) who can compete in international disability categories and games, including the Paralympics. Our goal is to be able to provide swimmers who can successfully represent AWD for USA on the national team in the future.

  • June 2019-Bay Area Synchro celebrated 3 years as a 'new' team with 12 swimmers. The team ranked in the TOP 3 within their region for figures and free routines, bringing home Gold, Silver and Bronze in the Novice and Intermediate categories among non disabled swimmers. For this reason, this team has been able to survive in a very small competitive sport. To date, the team has been represented in over 10 International exhibitions and competitions. 

  • Sept.2019-Cuba formally invites the Artistic Swim AWD Organization to attend their annual sports conference in Nov.2019 to participate in discussions about artistic swimming globally. Artistic Swim AWD, is the only organization at this conference to discuss the grass roots movement to include disabled athletes globally in Artistic Swimming. The attendance of our AWD Ambassador Raquel with our board members was successful! The Cuban government has extended an invitation to continue the discussions with their National Department of Sports for people with disabilities in June 2020.

  •  Feb.2020- FINA World Masters Championships has added an AWD category for their competition March 2021 in Japan. Another 'First' and historical significance in that this will be the FOURTH International Competition to formally include an AWD Category since the grass roots movement was started in 2015. Canada was the FIRST country to host an AWD category and inspired the grass roots movement to begin while continuing to 

  • strengthen their AWD programs as a result.