Canada is one of the most successful nations in synchronised swimming. The performance is always a captivating experience to watch, the choreography mixes the modern and the unique elements perfectly. Over the last three years, Canadian synchronised swimming has been working on preparing the new generation. At the very same time, one of the most successful athletes of the discipline will say goodbye to competitive synchronised swimming at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest this summer.
North America is the birthplace of the modern, universal synchronised swimming discipline. Both the United States and Canada played an active role in its decade-long development resulting in the ultimate success of the discipline: making an Olympic debut at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. The Americans won in the solo and the duet events there – enjoying the home advantage – , while the Canadians took the silver medals. They had their payback in Seoul four years later by triumphing over the Americans in both the solo and duet events – the Canadians took home the golds this time.
During the first phase of the discipline’s international rise, the American and Canadian teams went head to head with each other, heaping success after success. It is no surprise that the world kept watching every movement, each method of practise and choreographic development of these athletes. The scene has changed since however, both of the traditional nation have been overshadowed by more dominant countries in the world of synchro.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Canada came in fourth in the duet and team events behind Russia, China and Spain, while the American team did not even reach the finals and finished eleventh in the duet.
Regardless of the international results and the weaker medal count in recent years, the discipline's local base, traditions and opportunities are lavish in Canada. The club system in Canada is the most structured and effective worldwide. The National Federation has 150 member clubs with more than 12 000 athletes training day by day to be make it on the national team roster. The system is not centralised as in the Asian countries or in Russia and Ukraine. Canada relies heavily on the work of the clubs, trusts the experience of local coaches, these collaborations form the national team.
Their inclusiveness and worldliness is also proven by the fact that the Canadian national team’s coach is Meng Chen, who raced in Chinese colours at the 2001 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka. Following a short stay in Malaysia, Meng has been working for the success of Canadian synchronised swimming since 2008.
The triumph at the Pan American Games in 2011, just before the London Olympics, and the bronze medals won at the World Championships in both 2009 and 2011 all praise the teamwork of Chen and the previous national head coach, Julie Sauvé.
Since, Meng Chen has been appointed as head coach of the senior national team: her task is to continue the teamwork she started with the junior team and build a successful roster from the younger athletes. Therefore, Synchro Canada set a long-term goal with this decision, with now the main focus on Tokyo 2020.
“We will make small steps forward. Our discipline’s results are based on scores and of course we cannot influence what we receive from the judges, but we can strive to perform our routine perfectly.” – Meng Chen explained her philosophy following her appointment.
The current sports development plan focuses on the period between 2016 and 2024. The plan’s main goal is to reach the podium at the Olympic Games, perhaps in Tokyo. The last time Canadian synchro earned an Olympic medal (bronze) was at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
The Canadian routines are famous for brave and original ideas and are rarely choreographed to classical music. Canadian synchronised swimmers performed an unconventional, but highly successful routine in Sydney too, winning the Olympic bronze medal:
The Jacqueline Simoneau - Karine Thomas duet, finishing seventh at the 2016 Rio Games will reunite again for the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest this summer. Although Thomas is also currently focusing on her studies, they hope to achieve excellent results in the City Park’s synchro venue in July.
“I would like to continue my sporting career at least for one more year, but I am interested in other things also. I am studying marketing, which plays a big role in my life, too. I am grateful to the Canadian team, especially for Jacqueline to make it possible to concentrate on both of my two goals in the next few months.” – said Karine Thomas.
The 20-year-old Simoneau is also already a big name in synchronised swimming, since she won the gold medal in solo and was a member of the triumphant in team at the Pan American Games in 2015 and finished seventh in the duet event at the Rio Olympic Games.
“Karine is the oldest member of our team and we are really happy that she decided to continue her sporting career. It looks like that there is a great harmony between her and Jacqueline, they are achieving better and better results on the international field.”– said Jackie Buckingham, manager of the Canadian synchronised swimming team about the pair.
There is no doubt that the Canadian national team’s routines will be original and spectacular in Budapest this July, too. The 17th FINA World Championships shall be a great occasion for Karine Thomas to bid farewell to her beloved discipline.
In synchronised swimming, nine different medal events will be contested over seven days of competition at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest (solo technical, duet technical, mixed duet technical, team technical, solo free, duet free, team fee, free combination and mixed duet free). From July 15, finals will be held from 11:00 am.