FINA Worlds- A Masters Perspective
My name is Jordan and I’ve been the head coach at Vancouver Masters Synchro since September of 2014. I’d been away from synchro for almost seven years but was curious and excited about getting back into the sport in I way I hadn’t experienced before. I quickly realized that masters was this wonderful niche of synchronized swimming that was filled with passionate, vibrant and hardworking athletes from incredibly diverse backgrounds. I knew this was where I wanted to be! My goals were to grow the club, focus on the ongoing development of our athletes and to ensure that everyone who wanted to swim had the opportunity to do so.
The big long term goal was of course to compete at worlds in Budapest! We had 16 athletes and 2 coaches make the long journey to Hungary for a memorable week of competition.
There are so many moments that will forever be etched in my mind. Watching our very own Sara and Tommy take part in the first mixed duet event was a definite stand out and a huge source of pride for our club. But what made it so special was seeing the friendships develop between the 11 pairs and seeing the mutual respect and enthusiasm for this new event in our sport.
There are the big moments that stand out at a meet like technical elements being beautifully executed and athletes having a personal best swim but there are also quiet little moments that are equally powerful. Seeing Melinda and Angela compete in the duet event with Melinda only taking up synchro in the last 5 years and Angela swimming recreationally as a child was a great marker for how inclusive masters events are. From our experienced but first time soloist, Rhonda who found a reassuring kind word from a fellow competitor in the warm up pool to another one of our duet swimmers, Jessie watching her sister Alissa compete in the team event with tears in her eyes are all little snapshots that give you a glimpse into what this event was so unique and special.
I now turn it over to one of our athletes, Meghan for her perspective on the event. She’s been swimming with VMS for ten years and interestingly enough was my coach for a time when I was a teenager! You just never know who you might cross paths with again in Masters Synchro!
Third Time’s a Charm
It’s slightly embarrassing to admit, but I’ve been a Masters swimmer twice as long as I was a competitive swimmer. One of the reasons that I continue to swim Masters, even though I don’t really have the time or money, is that I love the big competitions available to us. Over the past ten years, I’ve travelled to Australia, Italy, and up and down the American West Coast multiple times. While all of these competitions and trips each have their own unique highlights (competing against the cast of Cirque de Soliel’s “O” at a meet in Las Vegas comes to mind), my third FINA World Masters Games, held this past August, in Budapest was, without a doubt, the best competition I’ve ever attended.
Compared to my other two World’s (Perth and Riccione), Budapest was the competition I was most invested in. We trained and practiced for an entire year. We saved and fundraised for two years. We sacrificed, dreamed and obsessed for three years. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. Even though I have a lot of competitive experience, I was extremely anxious going into this meet. What was it going to be like swimming in an outdoor pool (something I have relatively little practice with)? Was my creaky old body going to hold up? What skill level would the other swimmers be at? How would my team handle the pressures of competing? Much to my surprise, the pool was one of the easiest I’ve ever swam in, my body (mostly) held up, the overall skill level of my fellow athletes was both impressive and inspiring, and our team left the pool with a stronger bond than when we arrived.
The most striking element of this meet, the one that will forever be etched in my memory (and my laptop wallpaper background) is the pool itself. Two temporary pools, with adjoining stands and athlete areas were constructed in the shadow of Vajdahunyad Castle and steps from a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is no overstatement to say that I will never again have the opportunity to compete in such a beautiful location. Both the training and competitive areas were more elaborate and professional that I’ve ever experienced (a welcome bonus of the brilliant decision to conjoin both the competitive and masters competitions), and I believe it elevated everyone’s performance. You couldn’t help but push that little bit further. You couldn’t not stretch a little more. This wasn’t a small,local meet; this was the real deal. Plus, knowing we were being professionally filmed both above and below water (and live streamed on the internet for the whole world to see) has a way of making you give that extra little bit.
Of course, there were the expected challenges and stresses that come along with being at a big event. But, as it’s now officially end of summer, the importance of those incidents fade. Back at home in the real world what I’m left with are precious memories of a fantastic competition in a welcoming city, a renewed gratitude for the tireless work of our dedicated coaches, and a better understanding and appreciation of the fantastic women I have the honour of training with each week. It’s difficult to put into words how powerful an experience being surrounded by synchro swimmers from all around the world, bringing with them completely opposing skill levels and backgrounds, all linked by our common love for this wacky sport. It’s worth every single late night training session, every minute of overtime worked to pay for more crystals on our competition suit, every single emotional meltdown at the prospect of a routine workout.
And since I’m a synchro swimmer and not a baseball player, three strikes does not mean I’m out. It means I’ve already started planning for South Korea 2019 – Worlds #4.
My hope would be that anyone who has been on the fence about getting back into synchro or trying for the first times reads this and makes the decision to go for it! You won’t regret it. It will enrich your life in many many ways and not just in the pool. So reach out to your local clubs and see what opportunities are out there!
Follow Vancouver Masters Synchro:
Check out their website: https://www.vanmasterssynchro.ca
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