Mother-Daughter Duo Wins Gold at 2019 US Masters Championship

Nov. 08, 2019, 6 p.m. (ET)

The Nesbitt last name has been announced on pool decks around the World for decades. As a household name in the sport of Artistic Swimming, people hope to see exciting routines that everyone in the arena stops to watch.  

At the 2019 U.S. Masters Championship, spectators got to see a special gold medal winning duet performance from Barbara and Sue Nesbitt. This was a first for the mother-daughter duo who, separately, have been on the podium almost every time they enter the water.  

Coming off the 2019 World Masters Championship, Sue defended her 2017 gold medal in the solo event. Barbara and duet partner, Teresa Liccardo, earned a silver medal.  

Hoping to swim a duet at the 2019 U.S. Masters Championship, Barbara learned Liccardo would not make the trip to Tupelo, Mississippi for the event, but suggested Barbara and Sue swim together.  

“Luckily, she (Sue) accepted my proposal to swim together,” Barbara Nesbitt said. “I am not sure I will ever have the opportunity to swim with my mom again in the future, so I am really happy we had the opportunity this year in Tupelo.” 

Both Barbara and Sue have competed at the elite level of Artistic Swimming but in different decades, making their debut as a duet more challenging than they originally thought.  

“Artistic Swimming has grown and changed throughout the years from a slower, controlled, highly technical sport to more of a fast-paced, dynamic and explosive sport,” Barbara said. “We ran into some challenges in combining our two styles, but I believe we came out with something really special.” 

After a 38-year break from training and competition, Sue has spent most of her time on the pool deck as a coach. When getting back in the water four years ago, she had to relearn how to do most of the skills she has only coached for three decades. 

“I was more nervous than excited for the duet, as Barb is a really great swimmer who is up to date on current skills,” Sue Nesbitt said. “I am up to date for coaching current skills, but not so confident on executing them myself. Barb has helped me push my limits in many ways, but the two things I struggled with was swimming at a faster pace and being so close together.”  

With a lot of training, the pair choreographed a routine that would showcase both swimmers' strengths and bridge two styles of Artistic Swimming that are decades apart. 

“Sue was very diligent in training, we would get together for a few hours on Sundays and go over things together,” Barbara said. “It was a new experience swimming with my mom, former coach, current assistant coach and multiple time World Champion.” 

Barbara and Sue’s mother-daughter relationship has been anything but traditional because their shared love of the sport has allowed their relationship to take on many different roles. 

“From mother-daughter, coach-athlete and vice versa, assistant coach and coach,” Barbara said. “We sometimes have to mentally separate out when I’m speaking to my mom as my mom. It was a fun experience to dive into the swimmer-swimmer relationship and I learned a lot from her. I think we both came out with a heightened respect for each other as elite athletes and artistic swimmers.” 

It was an experience few parents get to share with their children and one that strengthened the duos already close bond.  

“I was very happy that I did as well as I did, and in the end, it was a lot of fun,” Sue said. “Barb did a great job watching me to make sure I was always doing the right thing.” 

“I am so blessed to be a part of this family legacy in the sport and just thankful to have followed the great example my mom has laid out with dedication, hard work, passion and being a strong ethical leader,” Barbara said. 

The pair left the 2019 U.S. Masters Championship with gold medals in the 40-49 duet event with a combined score of 139.4763.