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Swimming pretty, tough and in sync


More than 80 top swimmers from across North and South America took to the water in Huntersville last week. The didn't swim the freestyle or butterfly. It was something, well, prettier - synchronized swimming. WFAE's Lisa Miller visited with the U.S. team as it was making final preparations for the Pan American Junior Championships. Synchronized swimmers are often on the defensive. "What you see in movies and on commercials where girls with flower caps and laying out in the water with pretty poses is not at all what we do," says U.S. team member Chelsea Aton. She has spent nearly half her life learning scores of underwater moves like pushing her legs completely out of the water and hoisting teammates into the air-all without ever touching the pool's bottom. "You have to be focusing on so many different things at once: where you are in your pattern, how high you are, are you doing the right movement-all while keeping a smile on your face and making it look like it's the easiest thing you've ever done," explains Aton. Eighty-seven teenage girls from thirteen countries are in Huntersville competing in the championship. In this warm-up session, everyone's staked out a piece of the pool to practice in. Coach Kim Wurzel-Loporto is critiquing the moves of girls preparing for a duet. "Okay, nice, very, very nice. But bamp, bamp bamp. Here again it's too short you guys. You have to lengthen that out," Wuzel-Loport tells them. Team member Khadija Zanotto provides the play-by-play. "Right now their arms are moving in and out in one second to keep their butts on the surface and they're moving their legs similar to like a soccer players would a bicycle kick and dancer would do a plie," says Zanotto. And they're counting underwater to their pace without music. "It's similar to humming. Beeping like -mm-mm-mm," demonstrates Zanotto. During competition, music is piped in underwater so the swimmers can keep time as they hold their heads underwater for up to 30 seconds a plunge. Soundtraciks from dark movies like Titus and Munich are big in the synchronized swimming world. "I think every club has had someone who's swam to Gladiator," laughs Zanotto. And somehow they manage to coordinate sequined suites and heavy make-up with the music. "We wear suits that are designed for our themes and decorated by parents. And there's rhinestones and sequins and glitter. It's a girl's dream," says Zanotto. But she says don't be fooled by all this girly stuff, the flips and acrobatics the sports requires make it dangerous.