Ballarat residents can train for a new sport without leaving town, with the establishment of the city’s first synchronised swimming academy.
Commonwealth Games medallist Luda Thomas is introducing the sport, which has dominated her life since childhood, to the swimmers of Ballarat.
Ms Thomas took silver and bronze synchronised swimming medals home from the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Often described as underwater ballet, synchronised swimming is a demanding sport requiring fitness, core strength, swimming ability, coordination and the ability to hold your breath.
The Ballarat Synchronised Swimming Academy will splash down at Ballarat Aquatic and Leisure Centre next Thursday with several students already signed up.
“The only prerequisite is you have to be able to swim 25m,” said Ms Thomas, who competed under her maiden name of Plotnikova during her synchronised swimming career.
“You start off with basic elements, teaching core strength in the water and how to hold yourself up at the start before you actually go upside down under water.
“Once you get used to the basic moves on the surface, then you start going down and learning how to hold yourself upside down.”
Most synchronised swimmers start the sport in childhood, and Ms Thomas said those with good core strength – commonly those who have done gymnastics or dance – often found it easiest to pick up.
Her love for the sport began as a child in the Ukraine when her father was manager of a public pool. Synchronised swimmers performed at the pool’s opening and Luda, then 8, was hooked.
“So dad invited coaches to come out from another city to start teaching, and I started training,” she said.
In the lead up to the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Ms Thomas was training twice a day, six days a week with a mix of swimming training, gym work, stretching, and running through routines on dry land to synchronise moves with music.
Potential students at Ms Thomas’ synchronised swimming academy need not fear – classes will introduce them to the sport and for fun and fitness.
Competition may come later if the demand is there to start a team.
“The Commonwealth Games was amazing. We staged at the games village with all the other athletes, and the opening ceremony when we walked out and the whole crowd was cheering, it’s hard to describe the feeling – you have to have been in that atmosphere to understand.”
Ballarat Synchronised Swimming Academy is on Facebook or call 0437 566 813.