Synchronized swimming is a graceful aquatic sport that combines swimming, gymnastics, and dance. The sport is a synchronized choreographed routine set to music. Synchronized swimmers have to be very strong. Swimmers are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool, so all the power for the lifts must come from the legs. Breath control is vital because swimmers spend a lot of time upside down in the water. Synchronized swimming is primarily a woman’s event.

The sport made its Olympic debut in 1984 with solo and duet events. In 1996, these events were replaced by an eight-member water ballet event. The 2000 Olympic Games replaced the water ballet event with two synchronized swimming events, duet and team. Duets are teams of two, and the team competition has eight members. Synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are the only two Olympic events that are exclusively female.

All rules and regulations for synchronized swimming are governed by FINA. The pool must be 20m x 30m and have a minimum depth of 3m. Underwater speakers let swimmers hear the music. Swimmers wear FINA-approved swimsuits that are decorated; swimmers often wear waterproof cosmetics to complete their look. Synchronized swimmers are not allowed to wear swim caps; many swimmers wear their hair pulled in a tight bun. Swim goggles are not permitted either, so swimmers have to get used to performing in the water with their eyes open. To prevent water from entering the nose during underwater maneuvers, swimmers are allowed to wear nose clips.

Ten judges evaluate competitions. Five judges focus on technical merit, and the other five judge artistic impression. Competitors are awarded points on a scale of 0.0 to a perfect 10.0; scores can be given in increments of tenths (for example, 8.4 is better than 8.3). The high and low scores are thrown out, and the remaining scores are averaged. The averaged technical score and the averaged artistic score are added together; the swimmers with the highest points win. Synchronized swimmers are judged on execution, synchronization, difficulty of the moves, and choreography.

At the Olympics, each synchronized swimming event has two rounds. The technical or compulsory round is first. Swimmers must perform a routine with a pre-determined set of moves that must be performed in order. During this round, the technical score has more weight than artistic impression. The top 12 finishers move on to the final round. The final round is a longer artistic program. During the artistic routine, swimmers are free to create inventive routines that incorporate unique moves like throws and complex lifts. The scores from both rounds are combined, and the highest score wins the gold medal.

Other major synchronized swimming events include the FINA Synchronized Swimming World Cup, the FINA Synchro World Trophy, and the FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Synchronized swimming routines are graceful and beautiful, but the swimmers must have conditioned bodies and strong breath control to perform powerful lifts and complex moves, making synchronized swimming a very demanding sport.