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US artistic swimmers separated and out of the pool are still trying to stay in sync

By Content from The Washington Post written by: Emily Giambalvo | April 15, 2020, 1:46 p.m. (ET)

Below is an excerpt from The Washington Post Article "U.S. artistic swimmers, separated and out of the pool, are still trying to stay in sync"

Andrea Fuentes prepares her artistic swimmers for the unexpected. During one practice, she told them to imagine that their coaches suddenly couldn’t attend a competition. The staff let the swimmers guide themselves as they warmed up and prepared for their routine. Two hours later, Fuentes turned on the music and simulated a competitive performance. She relies on those types of off-the-wall scenarios to teach the U.S. national team how to manage uncertainty.

“I put them under stress situations,” Fuentes said. “But I never thought of this one.”

The novel coronavirus pandemic left the swimmers without a pool and without one another — two essential elements of a sport more often known by its previous name, synchronized swimming.

The U.S. team trains full time at a high school about 20 miles from San Francisco. That pool shut down midway through March, and the swimmers practiced in an unheated outdoor pool for a day. With an Olympic qualifying event slated for the end of April, the team considered moving into an Airbnb with a pool so it could continue training.

But once counties in the Bay Area instituted a stay-at-home order and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics seemed inevitable, the coaches adjusted their planning: “Let’s stop fighting nature,” said Fuentes, the U.S. national team coach and a four-time Olympic medalist for Spain. “The virus is a virus. You cannot go against it, so just accept that we have to adapt.”

A few of the American artistic swimmers scattered around the country, heading back to their hometowns, but others remained in California. Rather than guiding the group at the pool each day, Fuentes stares into the camera on her computer and leads workouts from home. The swimmers work through routines on land — leaning on drills, practicing with only arm motions or doing headstands so their legs can move as they would above the water. Through virtual sessions, the swimmers have stayed fit and in sync while forging connections with others who share their sport and these new challenges.

In addition to the U.S. team’s daily training, Fuentes has organized international sessions, allowing artistic swimmers around the globe to work out together on a video chat. A few days after the first call between swimmers from the United States and Israel, Fuentes invited national teams from countries in North and South America. An athlete from every nation on the call presented the others with a challenge or exercise.

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