Last summer, the Hawai‘i Synchro Club sent a team of eight to the Oceania Games in Brisbane, Australia; Hawai‘i, thanks to the fact that it sits in the middle of the Pacific, was the only US state eligible to compete. “The Oceania Federation was thrilled to have us there,” Lianne says. The Hawai‘i team was drawn from all levels, with swimmers ranging in age from 14 to 31, and it swam away with seven medals.
Fifteen-year-old Paige Ramsey is a member of the team that went to Australia and is a dedicated synchro swimmer. “I get so excited,” she enthuses. “When there’s an audience, it doesn’t feel like a competition anymore; it feels like a show.” Synchro swimmer Savannah Forrester agrees. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” the 17-year-old says. “Your adrenaline just goes crazy.”
What about nerves?
“Oh yes, for sure,” says Brianna D’Amico, another 17-year-old. “You just have to get yourself psyched for it.” But youngest team member, 14-year-old Lauren Nicholson, brushes off the jitters. “I just get excited,” she says.
I’m meeting the young swimmers at practice. Out here, at the West O‘ahu pool, the adrenaline is muted and the mood is relaxed. Gone is the audience, the nerves, the serious pressure, and the element of fun is almost palpable. Watching, I remember Paige’s sister Mary describing her favorite throw: “There are four girls underwater holding the feet of another girl, and the girl with her feet being held has a girl crouching on top of her. The girls underneath push, the girl with her feet being held stands up, and the girl on top jumps off, making her fly out of the water.” It may look as seamless as a Buzby Berkley musical, but this is seriously hard work. And it’s work that’s paying off. Last summer, the Hawai‘i Synchro Club hosted the 2007 US Open of synchro swimming. It was a coup for the new club, with the competition drawing hundreds of participants from all over the world. The Hawai‘i team did “really well,” says Lianne, with Island swimmers placing in both the solo and duet events. “It was great to see our girls up on the podium.”
Competitions like these are, Lianne says, a chance for people to really see the sport at its best. “But,” she adds, “we want Hawai‘i residents to know that we’re about more than just a one-time event. We’re here.” HH