Following the Olympics in 1996 technical routines were introduced to the program replacing figures, but only for Senior athletes, junior and age groups events held onto the all important foundation of our sport the figures. In the last decade we also saw the addition of the combination team event but this is yet to be included in the Olympic Schedule.
The sport is evolving quickly becoming more and more demanding and spectacular as it goes
In 1943 Canada introduced ‘synchronisation’ as a rule for routines and in 1945 it was recognised as a sport in the USA. In 1950 solos and duets were introduced. However a parallel development was the growth of Water Ballet, Aquatic Art and the elaborate theatrical shows of Esther Williams, which tended to overshadow synchro as a sport.
In 1953 the USA solo champion toured England and in 1955 synchro was introduced into the Pan American games. These were important steps in the gradual evolution from art-form to sport.
In 1958 in the UK George Rackham, a swimming and diving instructor, introduced competitive synchro USA style at the Metropolitan Diving Club of London and sent a solo, duet and team to the Dutch Festival competition. In 1960 Dawn Zajaz, a swimming teacher and former trapeze artist, studied synchro in California and founded the Seymour Synchro Club in London. They held competitions using the American rules.
In 1964 the Amateur Swimming Association recognised synchro and the first ASA synchro sub-committee was formed. In 1966 the first learners awards scheme for the sport was started and examiners qualifications were introduced. Synchro committtees were formed in the ASA Districts in 1967/68 and a National panel of judges was set up. In 1969 the first National competition was held and the coveted Redwood Trophy (donated from the USA) awarded to the winning club team. This was also the year of the first GB trials. 1969 was also the year that Reading Royals was formed.
Internation competition gradually developed on a informal basis int he late sixties and early seventies, for example with the European Four-Nations competition (later Fine-Nations). 1973 was the first World Championships and the first European Championships were held in 1974.
In Britain, the Annual National Competition became the National Championship in 1975 and included junior awards. Synchro teachers courses also started in 1975. In 1977 we had the first Junior GB Team. In 1980, National Age Group competition began. In 1984 synchro was included in the Olympics for the first time and in 1986 in the Commonwealth Games.
The Olympics and World Championships were dominated by USA and Canada and as we know is now dominated by Russia and Spain. In the 1970s and early 1980s Great Britain was dominant in Europe and fourth in the world and Reading Royals played a significant part in that achievement.
The early origins of synchro go back to the end of the nineteenth century when it was known by such names as ‘Ornamental Swimming’ or ‘ Flotation Teams’. In Britain it was then mainly a curiosity or a novel entertainment and was very different from the modern form we know today.The first known competitions were in Canada in 1925 when what we know as figures were know as ‘stunt’s. In 1930s in the USA and England, music was added purely as a background in ‘water shows’.