Male synchronised swimming
Male synchronised swimming teams are not something most people think of when asked about men’s sports. However, with the film ‘Swimming With Men’, a comedy based on a true story of a male synchronised swimming team, hitting the cinemas this Summer many people may be surprised to learn that this is a growing trend.
The origins of synchronised swimming date back to the late 19th century. Men would perform life-saving and swimming skills in formation. This was known as ornamental swimming.
The women then began to lead to way, with Australian swimmer and activist Annette Kellerman performing dance like movements underwater for the St Louis World fair in 1904, and Hollywood mermaid Esther Williams taking her elaborate water ballets to the big screen in the 1950s musicals.
Skip forward to 1984, when synchronised swimming was first included in the Olympic Games, and the art form evolved to become a physically demanding sport with current Olympic champions Russia taking it to the next level in terms of athleticism. Imagine running 1500m, holding your breath for 2/3rd of it, performing dynamic movements and lifting other people during that run, whilst staying in time with seven other people, and you get an idea of how hard the sport really is.
Whilst it is still only women that can compete in the sport at the Olympics, men are fighting back and are now allowed to compete in the mixed pairs events at the FINA world championships. The sport failed in its bid to include men in the 2020 Olympics but hope to see mixed pairs included in 2024. Current superstars include American Bill May and Italian Giorgio Minisini.
A record number of boys are joining synchronised swimming clubs, keen to learn the acrobatic moves and underwater skills. Aquabatix founder and former GB synchronised swimming coach, Adele Carlsen said “Whenever I run taster sessions, it’s the boys that seem to enjoy the sport the most. They love being underwater, trying out somersaults and handstands, basically everything you get told off for doing in a normal swimming lesson. It is a great team inclusion sport and you learn to work together as a team. Not everyone finds running miles, or kicking a ball past a post that enthralling, where as synchronised swimming offers a huge variety of different physical activity in its training and you can still compete”.
Adele goes on to mention that “as well as the fitness aspects of synchronised swimming, you learn to express yourself, which boys in particular should be encouraged to do more of.”
With ‘Swimming With Men’ being released this summer, Adele hopes to see an influx of new people to the sport, especially men and boys. “It isn’t just boys we want taking up the sport, this film shows that men of any age can do it and it can help you form the strongest of friendships and support network for life”!
Based on a true story of a Welsh man Dillon, who moved to Sweden when he got married, didn’t have any friends and felt lost in a new country, Dillon joined a middle aged male synchronised swimming team and ended up competing in the men’s synchronised swimming world championships. Fast forward to 2018, and his story has been turned into a film starring comedian Rob Brydon, BAFTA winner Adeel Akhtar, Emmy award nominee Jim Carter, plus other top British actors Rupert Graves, Daniel Mays, Thomas Turgoose and Charlotte Riley.
“All of the actors learnt and trained synchronised swimming for two weeks intensively. It isn’t the easiest set of skills to learn quickly, and physically it is really tough to be training in water four hours a day, five days a week when you are not used to it” Adele says having worked with the actors on the film. “Most people struggle to tread water or even just float on their back for a few seconds. We had two male synchronised swimmers, Chris Jepson and Ronan Daly, in the water with the actors to make the team up to a full eight, and by the end of the two-week boot camp, the actors had really shaped up physically and were performing the complex synchronised swimming moves alongside the two professionals. There are no body doubles in this film, it is all the actors own work!’
Commonwealth Games medallist Adele leaves us with “synchronised swimming, or artistic swimming as the world governing body for aquatics, FINA, is now calling it, is a sport and an art form for all. Along with male competitors, I really hope the demand for male synchronised swimmers for pool party entertainment explodes! The women have shown it’s a hugely popular form of entertainment amongst party guests as so few have seen it performed live. Can you imagine the speed of mobile phones being pressed to record, when a team of men walk out to perform synchronised swimming. It has got to be the next big thing and my company Aquabatix is ready for that demand!”
‘Swimming With Men’ directed by Oliver parker, is being called “The Full Monty in Speedos” and will be released July 6th in British cinemas. Look out for some male synchronised swimming on BBC’s Sport Relief, March 23rd BBC 1 too!