Ballet in the water or artistic swimming

This discipline is a graceful, feminine (since 2017 men also can participate in mixed duet) sport, where ladies (and as of recently mixed duets) perform different technical elements, formations in and under the water surface accompanied to music. Artistic swimming is an Olympic Sport since 1984. The first competition was held back in 1891 in Berlin for Ladies, while a year later a similar contest was organised for Gentlemen in London. In those days the sport was called artistic swimming or water ballet.










Mixed Duet

Mixed Duet

Free Combination

Team Highlight


Budapest, Margaret Island, Széchy outdoor pool



Artistic swimming involves swimmers performing figures to music. Despite its seemingly effortless performance, this sport is quite demanding. Competitors need strength and flexibility to perform twists and lifts as well as rhythm and flair to synchronise and interpret the music, which they listen to through underwater speakers.

Routines can be anything from two and a half minutes to five minutes long, depending on whether they perform solo or as part of a team. Solo, duet, team and mixed duet synchro swimmers compete in two routines: technical and free. The technical routine involves performing predetermined elements that must be executed in a specific order. The free routine has no requirements so the swimmers can be ‘free’ in how creative they get with music and their choreography. The free combination routine is a combination of solo, duet, trio, team in one routine performed by no more than 10 swimmers.

The judges award points on a scale of 0.0-10.0 (in tenths). There are three 5-member panels of judges, with the first panel scoring technical merit and synchronisation, the second scoring artistic impression (choreography, music interpretation and manner of presentation) and the third scoring difficulty in free routines and required elements in technical routines. No athletes are permitted to touch the bottom of the pool during a routine, even when lifting one another.


History of Synchro

Annette Kellerman was a champion distance swimmer, diver, and experienced ballerina in the early 1900s. After making a name for herself in Australia, she moved to England where she impressed the world by swimming almost thirty miles down the River Thames and a few years later she performed in her shocking one piece swim suit underwater in a large glass tank at the New York Hippodrome. It became a landmark event for synchronized swimming and its quick rise in popularity.

Aqua shows became a popular form of entertainment from that point on and kept synchronized swimming in the minds of the public.

Then Hollywood discovered swimming champion Esther Williams, nicknamed “America’s Mermaid,” who helped popularize synchronized swimming through a series of hugely successful films in the 1940s and ’50s.


FINA History

Following the sports development, it was only natural that artistic swimming desired to be included in the Olympic program as well. Finally, after two decades of demonstrations and proving legitimacy, the IOC accepted the duet event for the 1984 Olympics and just three months before the Games, the International Olympic Committee accepted the solo event as well. Artistic swimming had its Olympic debut in front of an American crowd at the XXIIIrd Olympiad in Los Angeles. The Olympic events would later change, and in 1996 team synchronized swimming was the only event. Duet was added at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and both team and duet events are currently contested at the Olympic Games.

Artistic swimming has been part of the World Aquatics Championships since the beginning. From 1973 through 2001, the World Aquatics Championships featured solo, duet and team competitions. In 2003, a free routine combination, comprising elements of solo, duet and team, was added. In 2005, this event was renamed free combination. In 2007, solo, duet and team events were split between technical and free routines. Since 2015, nine World championship titles are at stake, asthe mixed duets were also added to the program.


Outstanding athletes

After the 2019 World Aquatics Championships celebrated in Gwangju, South Korea, Romashina became the most titled athlete awarded in the history of synchronized swimming with 21 gold medals – now 7 times Olympic gold medallist – Svetlana Romashina is one of the best. Russia and China are the most succesfull nations in the discipline. Russia is not allowed to participate this world championships, so the Ukrainian, and the Spanish team could dominate in Budapest.


Why should you watch synchro?

The discipline is a harmonized picture of spectacle and sport, combining dance and swimming in perfectly timed, astonishingly graceful rhythmic movements, whilst demanding huge levels of stamina and lung capacity.


Equipment: 20x30m swimming pool (incl. a 12x12m area with no less than 3-metre depth), sound equipment (incl. underwater speakers)

Gear: Swimwear, noseclip, gelatin, make-up

Competition venue: Margaret Island, Széchy outdoor pool