When most people think of Jamaica they think of their honeymoon or the crystal clear blue water of the Caribbean. Almost no one thinks about synchronized swimming. That is because the country of Jamaica has never before sent a synchronized swimming team to any Olympic games in history. This may be surprising to some as they’ve had representatives of other sports not usually associate with the Olympics such as bobsledding as made famous by the film Cool Runnings. But, for some young Jamaican girls, competing in synchronized swimming at the highest level is the only thing on their minds right now. The five girls, ranging in age from 9 to 17 practice four days a week with a former Russian Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming named Olga Novokshchenova. Her first exposure with a Jamaican synchronized swimming team came back in 2013 although it might be one she soon wanted to forget. Her team finished in last place well behind the pack. Nevertheless this gave her a starting point from which upward was the only possible direction. The girls’ sometimes three hour long training sessions can focus on a variety of topics ranging from form and technique all the way to training the girls to hold their breath for longer periods of time. When each task is mastered they move on to more complicated techniques. These extremely talented girls have certainly sacrificed a great deal to even reach the point they are at today, but this doesn’t stop them from pursuing their ultimate dream of winning the Olympic Gold.
Synchronized Swimming is one of the lesser known olympic water sports, yet, arguably, it is one of the most amazing. In many countries, the sport is fairly new, and it has only had a spot in the olympics for thirty years. In Jamaica, synchronized swimming has never found a permanent home on the country’s olympic team. Recently, some young Jamaican girls have decided to change this.
In the dazzling blue waters of Port Antonio, you will find a group of girls -all with their hearts set on going to the olympics- practicing this amazing water dance. The girls, ages 9-17 are coached by Olga Novokshchenova, a Russian gold medalist in synchronized swimming. Novokshchenova says she began teaching swimming lessons, and over the years has picked out the strongest swimmers and invited them to be on the team, which they call Island Island Synchro Aquatic.
The team has now placed with high honors in several competitions, including a recent one in Orlando, Florida. But, it hasn’t always been this way. At the first competition, they were one of the only black teams there, and finished dead last. They didn’t let that discourage them. Just two years later, they placed fourth- the highest Jamaica has ever placed in synchronized swimming- in the same competition.
Through injured legs and expensive competition and travel fees, the team has stuck together, and has high hopes to make it to the 2020 olympics.