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The Swim England-led Artistic Swimming South West project

A project to raise awareness of artistic swimming and encourage a new generation to take up the sport has been officially launched in Bristol by GB stars Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe. The Swim England-led Artistic Swimming South West project will provide a continuous pathway from beginner level right through to elite performance in the city and wider region.

Great Britain duet athletes Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe helped kickstart the scheme with a routine in front of more than 50 people at Bristol’s Hengrove Park Leisure Centre. 

City of Bristol Aquatics synchro club also performed, while the GB duet took part in a question and answer session with British Swimming chief executive Jack Buckner.

The Artistic Swimming South West project aims to capitalise on the growing interest and success of Shortman and Thorpe to develop a complete synchro package.

Karen Thorpe, Swim England Artistic Swimming (Synchro) Manager, said: “Our aspiration in the future is that we have a centralised performance programme for national team athletes which will combine a blend of education and training. It will put GB athletes on the same level as their competitors across Europe and the world.”

Unique artistic swimming offering

The Artistic Swimming South West project has four key areas:
  • Growing the participant base
  • Developing the Elite Pathway
  • Developing the workforce to increase the quality and quantity of coaches and administrators
  • And developing the surrounding region.

Sarah Darragh, Swim England Artistic Swimming (Synchro) National Development Officer, said: “Our project aims to create a unique artistic swimming (synchro) offering in the city and the region, which is open to all, but with a focus on female engagement from all sections of the community.

“A Talent ID programme will connect participants with the Talent Pathway and we will develop relationships with the universities to provide seamless opportunities for talented performers to continue training through further and higher education. We also believe that barriers to activity can be addressed and removed effectively by providing a complete pathway in one area and will aim to engage a greater number of BAME participants into the sport. The concept will then become a blueprint for the development of the sport across the country.”

Key partners involved in the project are Swim England and British Swimming at a national level, with Bristol City Council, City of Bristol Aquatics synchro club, Clifton High School, Everyone Active, Parkwood Leisure, Swim England South West, University of Bristol, University of West England and Wesport County Sports Partnership also backing the scheme.
The launch of the Artistic Swimming South West project is a ‘dream come true’ for Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson. Jane played a key role in ensuring synchronised swimming was included in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester – and has been a huge fan of the sport ever since.

“I was a speed swimmer, I didn’t do synchro,” Jane said. “When I started to put the funding bid together [for Manchester], I began to understand the world of synchro and how tough and complex it is. It’s about speed swimming, gymnastics, dance, strength and conditioning, flexibility and their training programme is second to none.

“Speed swimming training paled into insignificance and I came from that background. Synchro is a totally amazing sport performed by incredible athletes. I was hooked as a fan from that moment on. I’m now the British Swimming Board link to synchro and delighted to have this role.

“Having a home for a complete synchro programme from community to elite has been a dream of mine for many years. It’s something I have always wanted to do. Thanks to all the partners that have made it happen and making this dream come true.”

George Wood, Swim England sport development director, said: “This is a really special point in time for synchro where we can genuinely build some partnerships and win wins for the sport.

“I’m really excited about that. This project is about the growth of the sport and how it can impact on people’s lives in the city, region and nationally. It’s not just the GB duet but actually hundreds of kids who have not heard of artistic swimming or synchro yet but, come the Olympics, will have heard of it, had a go at it and loved it.

“Synchro is a sport on the up. The numbers are growing and our performance levels are growing. And this project is about growing it and partnerships that are going to take the sport forward.”

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