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Amazing Moments in Olympic History: 1996 Synchronized Swimming

April 29, 2009, 7:44 p.m. (ET)

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At the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, a new synchronized swimming event debuted. Instead of the solo and duet events of the past, a team event was contested at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

Synchronized swimming, which is open only to women, isn't all about ornate costumes and exaggerated makeup. Strenuous activity combined with superior breath control is necessary and make this sport much more challenging than it looks.

Swimmers must hold their breath for long periods of time, sometimes staying underwater for as long as a minute in a basic five-minute routine.  Touching the bottom of the pool is an illegal move in the sport. Judges subtract two points from a team's final score for each time a synchronized swimmer touches the bottom of the 9-foot pool during an act. That adds an intriguing element of difficulty to lifts. 

Since officially being added to the Games in 1984, Americans held first- or second-place spots in both the solo and duet synchronized swimming events. The 1996 Games were no different. With the solo and duet programs being dropped in favor of the team event, the Americans continued to prove their dominance.

Team USA held the lead after the technical round, earning 3 perfect 10's from the judges.  They topped their own performance with a flawless freestyle routine at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Aquatic Center. The swimmers received a perfect score from the judges, giving them a final score of 99.720, and the first Olympic gold medal ever awarded in the synchronized swimming team event.

The perfect routine of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team (Suzannah Bianco, Tammy Cleland, Becky Dyroen-Lancer, Emily LeSueur, Heather Pease, Jill Savery, Nathalie Schneyder, Heather Simmons-Carrasco, Jill Sudduth and Margot Thien) is a feat that has yet to be repeated.

"Amazing Moments in Olympic History" will be published every Wednesday on teamusa.org.  Check back weekly to see more landmark achievements and incredible feats in the history of Team USA and the Olympic Movement.