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Elite synchro swimmers compete in Huntersville this week

The U.S. Synchronized Swimming National Championships are being held in North Carolina for the first time this week. Last year, the Huntersville Aquatic Center played host to the junior swimmers. Thursday through Saturday, the most elite college and club swimmers in the country will compete for a national title. People love to mock synchronized swimming. Taylor Payne with the U.S. Synchronized Swimming organization is the first to admit that. "You know the common myth out there people think of the Saturday Night Live skit and what not," says Payne. Ah yes. Martin Short splashing around the pool like a chicken in a life preserver. "I don't swim," he admits in the skit. "You know once people see it in person they have a new appreciation for it and recognize how difficult the sport really is," says Payne. "They're never touching the bottom because they do receive a penalty if they do that. They're constantly treading water - it's a little bit of a gymnastics routine in the water, so to speak." And much of the time they're upside down, holding their breath. Shannon Korpela is a coach for the Santa Clara Aquamaids from California, where synchronized swimming is more popular than in the South. Korpela spoke with WFAE on her cell phone poolside, during a break in pre-competition practice. She explained the importance of this week's competition: "Our athletes train six days a week, anywhere from four to six hours a day," says Korpela. "They treat it just like they would a job - some will be going on to college because of their swimming." Tickets to watch the competition range from $8 to $12. A schedule is online at http://www.usasynchro.org/.