Last month, Bay Area Synchro made 'history' by being the first club ever developed primarily for athletes with disabilities and special needs. Hosted by the Synchro AWD advocacy organization, Bay Area Synchro is 'different' in that they are an active club to offer 'adapted synchronized swim training'. No other club or team in the USA has ever offered this.
What we do know, is that in the past 107yrs, there have been MANY synchro AWD and special needs swimming around the World with teams and clubs, but NONE of those were ever developed for the AWD in mind, especially none that we could find in the USA. The story of synchronized swimming began in early 1900's when Aussie Annette Kellerman came to North America and began combining swimming with water ballet to ease the pain in her legs and lessen the wearing of metal braces due to Polio. In 1907, She performed an athletic routine with swimming and water ballet in a glass tank in NYC and after that became known as the swimmer who introduced 'synchronized swimming'. Of course, it was not called 'synchronized swimming' until it became more popular in competitions in the 1940s when an announcer coined the actual term. Since then, many AWD joined in with clubs and teams, but as the competitions became more fierce, many of the AWDs dropped out and disappeared because of the stigma of their disabilities and special needs. Some remained in exhibitions and shows, but they were discouraged and not allowed to talk openly about their disability for fear of being dropped from a team or club. There have been some clubs in the USA who have openly included AWD in the past several years. One specifically we know of was the Redwood Empire Aquastars in Marin County, Northern California.
We had a chance to speak at length with the legendary Synchro Coach, Marion Kane Elston last July 2015 at the California State Games. Coach Marion gave us much of the information above and also added that she had at least FIVE AWD on her team. She acknowledged that there were no teams developed for Synchro AWD or the training because it was a stigma 'back then'. She told us that she encouraged her Synchro AWD swimmers to stay but they ultimately left as competitions became harder and there was no focus on any national or international competitions that they could excel at. When we told her of our plans to develop a team, she boomed with excitement and offered to help us start it and even bring in a program to her team specifically for synchro AWD. Coach Marion was a great source of information and we were excited to bring her on board as our historian. Sadly, she passed away in the fall of 2015 and our dreams with her never came to fruition. We hope to seek out more of our 'movers and shakers' of synchro to develop a historical timeline and to give back synchro to the AWD who deserve to be a part of this sport.
In speaking with Coach Katie, the head coach for Bay Area Synchro, she tells us that she has been a synchro swimmer for over 40yrs and have SEEN many AWD come and go, especially with Masters. "I've seen swimmers being lifted out of wheelchairs and into pools as far back as the 70s". But, Coach Katie echoed the same thing as Coach Marion, many of those AWD swimmers became discouraged and dropped out. When Masters competitions became more popular, many swimmers with disabilities and special needs came back. But most of them were over 40yrs old. In fact, the Masters program has the largest population of AWD swimmers in the World, partly because many of them acquired their disability or special needs as they aged. Coach Katie is excited to head the new team for adapted synchro and said "we also are the first in the USA to use the Acquapole as a tool to train our Synchro AWD and that amongst other things with specific training sets us apart". Our President of Synchro AWD Org, Tina Boales, saw this amazing aquafitness tool which was developed in Italy and called the company for more information so she could review it with her orthopedic doctors. 'I found out that the Acquapole was invented by female sports experts and one of them is a synchronized swimmer and coach from Italy. I was excited to hear this and when I spoke of my idea to use their pole for training synchro AWD they were just as excited and offer to come to our town as part of their USA tour so that we can be trained and certified on its use and now we are! We will be using the pole starting in April with our new team".
We are excited that synchro has reached this level and hope that many clubs and teams will follow and openly include AWD swimmers in their programs. We applaud the current teams and clubs who had and have synchro AWD and hope that they will connect with us for our push to include synchro as a Paralympic Sport, another history maker for our Organization. Since the inception of synchronized swimming as an Olympic Sport in 1984, there has been no efforts in the past 32 years to bring in synchro as a paralympic sport for the United States. Only one other Country has tried and on paper, is Canada.
In order to make this an international effort, Synchro AWD Org was developed as a non profit in Feb 2015 and already has encouraged and committed 13 Countries to pursue synchro as a future Paralympic sport. Synchro AWD Org is doing the official grass roots efforts for USA Synchro Federation. We are also proud to say that another Synchro AWD Organization has developed in Brazil, the "Inspara Institute" and they are well are their way to bringing awareness in Brazil for the RIO summer games in which we will be a part of for the Paralympics Sports Science conference (ICSEMIS) as well as the 2nd annual Synchro AWD Symposium. The 1st symposium took place in Taiwan in June 2015. The 1st International Synchro AWD Camp was held in Spain in Dec. 2015. Many Countries are now doing sports events to promote Synchro AWD. We are happy to lead this journey and to enrich our sports history with our population of swimmers with disabilities and special needs.
For more information about Bay Area Synchro, Synchro AWD Organization and any upcoming events, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org