Summer Olympics Synchronized Swimming: 10 Terms Every Fan Should Know

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According to its official website, the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will run from July 27 through Aug. 12. During that period, Americans will get a chance to watch a number of sporting events that rarely appear on television. One of these sports is synchronized swimming.

The synchronized swimming contests, which are only open to women, will take place between Aug. 5 and Aug. 10. Swimmers can compete either in the "duets" competition or in the "teams" event. An article in The Telegraph notes that synchronized swimming was originally called "water ballet," and the name seems to fit. Competitors execute a series of choreographed moves in water, which may include "substantial twists, thrusts, rockets and boosts." While first time viewers might be amazed by the visual artistry and skill of the swimmers; they will likely be unfamiliar with some of the jargon used by commentators to describe the contests.

People who are new to the sport of synchronized swimming should find these 10 definitions helpful. All of the information comes from the official website of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games unless otherwise noted.

Duet: A team consisting of two swimmers.

Technical Routine: Swimmers perform a series of required movements in water while music plays in the background. In both the teams and duets competitions, the technical routine counts for 50 percent of a squad's total score.

Free Routine: Per The Telegraph article, swimmers are allowed to "perform their own choreographed material" to musical accompaniment. The free routine counts as 50 percent of a squad's total score.

Technical Merit Score: Judges will grade the competitors based in part on their technical performances. During the technical routines, these judges look at how well the swimmers execute their maneuvers. In the free routines, technical merit judges also analyze things like the "difficulty and execution of strokes/movements" and the level of synchronization. Per the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), the sport's governing body, the technical merit score represents 50 percent of the total score for a routine.

Artistic Impression Score: During the technical routines, the judges' artistic impression scores are based on things like "choreography, synchronization, difficulty and manner of presentation." In the free routines, artistic impression is focused on "choreography, music interpretation, and manner of presentation." According to FINA, the artistic impression score represents 50 percent of the total score for a routine.

Deckwork: This term refers to any maneuvers that swimmers perform before they enter the water.

Scull: The underwater hand movements that a swimmer makes in order "to move and [to] support" herself while in the water.

Eggbeater: A "powerful way of treading water that allows the swimmer to perform arm movements while staying afloat."

Crane Position: Per The Telegraph, the term refers to a swimming position in which the contestant lies upside down in the water with one leg pointing upwards out of the water and one leg in front of the swimmer and at a 90-degree angle (though still underwater).

Split Position: Per The Telegraph, the swimmer executes an upside down leg split while submerged beneath the water.

The author is a freelance writer who happens to be an avid sports fan. He is not affiliated with any Olympic organizations or synchronized swimming teams.

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