January 8, 2010
HFFA IN 'SYNCH' WITH U.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS IN APRIL
by John Deem/Lake Norman Citizen
Picture the scene: young, very fit women wearing lots of sequins and makeup, moving in precisely choreographed routines to booming music, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in groups.
A Las Vegas revue? The Rockettes on tour? A Broadway show?
Actually, it’s a pool, right here in Lake Norman.
The Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics Center will return to the national stage April 15-17, when it hosts past and future Olympians at the U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Championships. The U.S. Championships follow the highly successful UANA Pan American Junior Synchronized Swimming Championships held at HFFA last August. That event drew 200 participants from 14 nations and approximately 1,500 spectators over three days, generating an estimated $210,000 in direct economic impact, according to estimates from Visit Lake Norman.
Those figures don’t include the days that teams and officials spent in the area before and after the event. Competitors, coaches and officials converged on the area from Argentina, Aruba, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.
While only U.S. athletes will compete at HFFA in April, comparable numbers of competitors and spectators are expected.
U.S. Synchronized Swimming (known as USA Synchro, the sport’s governing body in the U.S.) “was very pleased with the UANA meet last summer,” says USA Synchro spokeswoman Taylor Payne. “But we’re excited not only because we had a great experience in Huntersville, but because it’s a semi-new area for us.”
Synchronized swimming is a little like figure skating, only under water. Single performers, pairs and teams perform choreographed routines to music, and are judged both on technical merit and artistic interpretation.
The epicenter of synchro swimming is northern California, and that’s where most national-level meets have been held historically. Now, though, in an effort to spread interest in the sport to other parts of the country, the organization is looking at different venues.
It appears to be working already. HFFA began hosting a series of synchro lessons after the UANA meet, and has added two more series as interest continues to build.
There actually are few venues capable of hosting large aquatic events, a fact that improved HFFA’s chances of landing the nationals. The townowned HFFA can seat up to 2,000 spectators in the arena housing its 50-meter pool.
“It’s an excellent facility,” Payne says. “The (U.S.) girls who were there last year had a great experience in Huntersville, and most of them will be coming back to compete at the U.S. Nationals.”
Synchronized swimming is an Olympic sport that often earns about the same amount of respect — or ridicule — as, say, rhythmic gymnastics. Until you see it in person, Payne is quick to interject.
“Actually, it’s the ultimate team sport,” U.S. team co-captain Javeneh Nikbakht told the Citizen before last
summer’s international competition at HFFA. “It’s also a really tedious sport.”
And demanding. Leading up to the August meet, U.S. team members trained eight hours a day, often swimming or treading water in depths over their heads for hours without touching the edge of the pool.
Team members spend hour after hour perfecting the smallest details while practicing their routines and individual drills under the critical eyes of coaches. One small mistake by one team member in a routine can turn synchronicity into chaos.
“I would really encourage everyone to see it in person,” Payne adds. “You really don’t realize how difficult a sport it is until you experience it close up.”
About Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics (HFFA):
Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics is about family, fitness and fun. Dedicated HFFA staffers produce an exciting variety of programs and partnerships that connect the community and enable members to experience and achieve the most in health, wellness, and total fitness. Built in 2001, the 88,000-square-foot HFFA facility features state-of-the-art aquatic and fitness components, including a 50-meter pool, a 25-yard warm water pool, an outdoor family fun pool, full-court gymnasium, complete fitness center, and group exercise studio. As the only public facility in the Southeast with an Olympic-sized, 50-meter competition pool and 10-meter dive tower, HFFA regularly hosts aquatics events with up to 2,000 spectators for regional, national, and international swim and dive competitions. For more information, please call (704) 766-2222 or visit www.hffa.com.
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