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The Pursuit Of Olympic Qualification: USA Senior National Team Returns to the Pool

By Emily Falkenberg | June 12, 2020, 3:04 p.m. (ET)



After more than 75 days of sheltering in place, USA Artistic Swimming is excited to announce that the Senior National Team will make their first jump back in the pool on June 17. 

Coming off an incredible performance at the French Open in Paris, the USA Artistic Swimming Senior National Team proved to the world that they are serious contenders to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo. Upon their return to the U.S., the squad of up and comers were hyper-focused on giving their Olympic dream everything they had until the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the team to shelter in place and postponed the Olympic Games Tokyo to 2021. 

As pools, gyms, and training centers closed around the world, four-time Olympic medalist turned USA Artistic Swimming head coach Andrea Fuentes said the young team had to find their land legs and adapt. The Senior and Junior National Team got creative and trained together virtually for four hours a day, six days a week. More than any team sport in any country. 

But that was not enough. Fuentes and her imaginative staff knew athletes around the world were experiencing the same issues, so they brainstormed ways to further connect with athletes and learn from other sports. They saw an opportunity to help both teams make their mark by bringing together not only their competitors from around the world but also their fellow Team USA athletes by organizing online workouts that would welcome everyone. 

“We worked out with Rhythmic Gymnastics, Water Polo, Boxing, our partners at RX Smart Gear, Wrestling, Figure Skating, and more,” Fuentes said. “We learned many new disciplines that made us go out of our comfort zone, but we were able to give each other our strengths and were super inspired by the other athletes." 

Fuentes said the team learned a lot by connecting with their competition. They created a weekly workout with artistic swimmers from other Pan American countries and even organized a worldwide workout for the artistic swimming community to join. This allowed the athletes an opportunity to see how other athletes around the world are approaching training, but more importantly provide connection and encouragement to each other during this time. 

Now they return to the pool more energized and motivated than ever before. Senior National Team Member Lindi Schroeder said she is more than ready to feel the water again and be surrounded by her teammates. 

“I think our time apart from each other has given us the opportunity to truly appreciate the sport and the bond that we have,” Schroeder said. “I think this gratitude will give us the energy and love that we need.  I think our increased land training allowed us to focus on new things and I am looking forward to seeing how this transfers to the water.” 

USA Artistic Swimming is committed to ensuring the National Team and the entire USA Artistic Swimming family return to the pool safely. USA Artistic Swimming CEO, Adam Andrasko said the organization has developed suggested safety guidelines and training methods to allow athletes to get back in the water and enjoy the sport as quickly as possible. 

“I hope that this return to the pool and training method can serve as a clear guide for all artistic swimming programs across the country,” Andrasko said. 

The return of the Senior Team will be taken several steps further. All athletes will be tested multiple times, checked daily for symptoms, and will follow out of water training requirements.   

“This team has made it through quarantine healthy, but COVID-19 has not gone anywhere,” Andrasko stated. “We will remain focused on staying healthy and giving this team the best shot possible at qualifying for Tokyo 2021.” 

“We appreciate all the difficult decisions that have been made by the state of California, Contra Costa County, Town of Moraga and Acalanes School District,” Andrasko continued “It is through their guidance that we are now able to return to the pool in a safe environment. We are taking several precautionary measures to ensure the health and wellness of our athletes and coaches, and that will remain our priority as training progresses. It is the next step in the development of our athletes, team and goal of Olympic qualification.” 

For Fuentes, the return to the water will be a gradual one. She said the swimmers have been “fish out of water” for more than 75 days and it will take time to get used to the water again, but the team is stronger, more motivated, and mentally ready to return more than ever.  

The Olympic qualification tournament will take place in Tokyo on March 4-7, 2021. Fuentes knows the clock is ticking, but said this added year gives the team exactly what they needed in pursuit of qualification - time. 

“We really think we are in a good position to qualify if we continue working really hard,” Fuentes said. “I know what we need to improve, and we are doing so very fast. We have new ideas, strategies and ways to improve our strengths and be more powerful and creative, and I cannot wait to see the team and get started. LET’S GOOO!”