Artistic Swimming

Facts

Discipline of Aquatics
Participants 550
NOCs 47
Competitions held 17 (Venues)
Distinct events 3
IF Fédération internationale de natation

Description

Artistic swimming was known as synchronized swimming until July 2017, when the international federation changed the name. It is one of the few Olympic sports or disciplines that are contested only by women (rhythmic gymnastics and softball are the others). It is not considered a separate sport but rather a discipline of swimming, or technically aquatics, and as such is governed by the Fédération internationale de natation (FINA). FINA was formed on 19 July 1908 in London and has 209 affiliated nations as of 2020.

Artistic swimming is a relatively new sport with its origins dating to the beginning of the 20th century. Water show activities first received notice in the United States when Annette Kellerman (1886-1975), an Australian swimmer who toured the United States, performed her water acrobatics in a glass tank. Katherine Curtis was responsible for developing the sport in the United States, when she began to experiment around 1915 with water figures and had the figures performed to musical accompaniment. Her students performed at the 1933-34 Chicago “Century of Progress” Fair, where the announcer, former Olympic swimming gold medalist Norman Ross, coined the term “synchronized swimming”.

American film star Esther Williams later popularized synchronized swimming when she performed water ballet in several American movies. The competitive aspect was developed about the same time when Frank Havlicek, a student of Curtis, drew up a set of rules.

Artistic swimming was recognized as a separate discipline of swimming by FINA in 1952. World Championships in artistic swimming have been held since 1973, when FINA first established the World Aquatics Championships. Artistic swimmers compete at the World Championships in solo, duet, and team competition. Men were initially not allowed to compete at the international level, although they appeared in national events and also now at the World Championships.

At the Olympics, artistic swimming was first held in 1984 with solo and duet events, and these events were contested again in 1988 and 1992. However, both events were discontinued in 1996 at Atlanta, replaced by an 8-person team event. Since 2000, the Olympic Program has consisted of a duet and team event. Initially, the Olympic artistic swimming events were dominated by the United States and Canada, but since 2000, all the events have been won by Russian swimmers, with three Russians winning five gold medals – Anastasiya Davydova, Nataliya Ishchenko, and Svetlana Romashina.

All-time medal table

Olympic Games

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Russian Federation RUS 10 0 0 10
United States USA 5 2 2 9
Canada CAN 3 4 1 8
Japan JPN 0 4 10 14
People's Republic of China CHN 0 3 2 5
Spain ESP 0 3 1 4
France FRA 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Olympic Games

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Anastasiya Davydova RUS 5 0 0 5
Nataliya Ishchenko RUS 5 0 0 5
Svetlana Romashina RUS 5 0 0 5
Anastasiya Yermakova RUS 4 0 0 4
Olga Brusnikina RUS 3 0 0 3
Mariya Kiselyova RUS 3 0 0 3
Mariya Gromova RUS 3 0 0 3
Elvira Khasyanova RUS 3 0 0 3
Carolyn Waldo CAN 2 1 0 3
Tracie Ruiz-Conforto USA 2 1 0 3

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
Duet Women 8
Team Women 6
Solo Women 3