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Olympics guide: Synchronised Swimming

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Synchronising our watch is hard enough, let alone having to synchronise our entire body with seven other people under water in front of thousands. We remember when swimming lessons used to just be diving to the bottom of the pool in Transformers PJs and picking up the brick. But here's your cheat sheet none the less.

Athletes: 104

Golds up for grabs: 2

Olympic presence: Exhibition sport 1952 and at four other Games. Full medal event since 1984.

Olympic Format: Synchronised swimming launched as a solo and a duet event in 1984, became just a team event in 1996, and in 2000 reverted to the original format. Like rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming is a women-only Olympic sport.

Contenders: In both events the Russians are the swimmers to beat. Usual challengers include Canada, USA, Japan and France, and you can expect serious performances from Spain, China and Australia.

Past Champions: Russia: 6 | USA : 5 | Canada: 3

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THE BASICS

Synchronised swimming is a form of competitive dance (see the guide to the dances below), in which the swimmers must move in time with each other and the music, performing a variety of strokes, twists, turns and lifts. Participants may not touch the bottom of the three-metre-deep pool and must keep themselves aloft with a combination of sculls (small hand movements) and egg beater strokes (made with the legs).

Shall We Dance? Competitive Formats

The Olympic competitions are between pairs of dancers (duets) and eight-women teams. In both events, participants perform a technical routine and a free routine, each around four minutes long. The technical competition involves a set series of moves and lifts, whereas in the free competition the choreography is created by the swimmers.

Art and Industry: Judging and Scoring

Each routine is scored by ten judges. Five judges grade the technical qualities and five the artistic qualities. Technical criteria include the degree of synchronisation, the precision of movement and the difficulty of the routine. Artistic criteria, although voluminously detailed in the regulations, remain at best a grey area: points are scored for – among other things – flair, creativity and feel for the music.

After the five judges have given their scores, the highest and lowest are discounted and the three remaining scores are averaged. The final score for each routine is calculated by multiplying the technical score by six and the artistic score by four, with the results added to give a maximum of 100. A team or duo’s total for the competition is determined by adding the scores for the two routines together, with the free routine counting for more than the technical one (they are multiplied by 0.65 and 0.35 respectively). Anyone still with us?

(Image: Rex Features)

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