What do synchronized swimming and mixed martial arts have in common?
Not a thing, at first glance. One is a full-contact fighting sport; the other involves performing precise figures in the water and making it look effortless. But both are grueling sports that require extensive cross-training in different disciplines.
In the case of synchronized swimming, athletes spend years working on diving, flexibility, acrobatics, ballet, breath control, swimming and strength training.
All of those elements were on the agenda for 11-year-old Jordan Shantz of West Montrose, who took part in a high performance camp in California this week. She spent five days in Walnut Creek, California, training with coaches from the U.S. national and Olympic teams.
Speaking from a hotel room in California, a tired Jordan said the 10 and 11-hour days at the camp were worth it.
“I found that the coaches that were coaching us, they were very supportive of us and they always gave us good corrections that were very helpful,” she said.
Jordan, who is going into Grade 6 at Conestogo Public School, has been doing synchronized swimming for three years. Her parents, Sherrie and Bryan, installed a pool four years ago and watched Jordan put together dances and routines in the water. Sherrie hunted around and found a week-long synchro camp for her to try.
“I got hooked, I just loved it,” Jordan said.
Jordan swims and trains with the KW Synchro Club, spending 12 to 15 hours a week in the pool and doing dry-land training. Synchronized swimming only looks effortless; underneath the wide smiles, swimmers are propelling themselves rapidly around the pool, lifting and throwing their teammates and forming precise figures in time to the music – while often holding their breath for several minutes at a time.
Her hard work has paid off; she competed at the national level last year and in April she survived two tough qualifying rounds to make the Team Ontario 12 and under ‘A’ team.
The 12 and under team isn’t a competitive team, but it offers the girls the opportunity to train at a higher level. After three days swimming together in Newmarket, she flew with 23 other girls from her team and the 13-15 ‘B’ team to California.
The girls from Ontario trained alongside 50 other swimmers from all over the United States, including Alaska.
“You get to meet people from all over America, and you got to know the different styles of coaching and judging that they do in America,” Jordan said.
In addition to picking up pointers on American judging, Jordan also made new friends at the camp.
“Now once she starts up again and goes to meets, they look forward to running into all the girls they meet at different clubs,” Sherrie said.
While the rest of the team flew back to Ontario on Wednesday, Jordan stayed behind an extra day to do some sightseeing with her mom and younger brother Riley.
Not that Jordan is looking for a break from the long hours in the pool.
“They’re always fun,” she said. “I like the feeling of swimming, and when I’m competing I can just feel that I’m doing my best and knowing that my coaches support me. I’m really just happy to be there.”