Synchronized Swimming: The Pursuit of Excellence on WXXI-TV

Tue, 07/20/2010 - 9:00pm
Two teams of young hopefuls - the fiercely ambitious Santa Clara Aquamaids (pictured) from California and the spirited underdogs, the Saint Paul Stars, from Minnesota - put their strength, grace and artistry on the water line at the U.S. Open, the climactic final event of the U.S. synchronized swimming season.

Credit: Giulia Rais-Steinberg

Acclaimed filmmaker, Mark Lewis, reveals the grace, beauty and fierce ambition under the surface of synchronized swimming.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE, a documentary from filmmaker Mark Lewis, takes viewers beneath the surface of this glamorous sport to reveal the pain, sacrifice and sheer grit necessary to be a champion synchronized swimmer. The film follows two teams of young hopefuls - the fiercely ambitious Santa Clara Aquamaids from California and the spirited underdogs, the Saint Paul Stars of Minnesota - as they put their strength, grace and artistry on the water line at the U.S. Open, the climactic final event of the U.S. synchronized swimming season.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE encores Tuesday, July 20 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011 and 11).

The spectacular routines and polished makeup belie the heavy demands of the sport. These extraordinary athletes must display stamina, teamwork, flexibility, strength, endurance, grace and artistic expression - not to mention the ability to hold one's breath underwater for long periods of time! And don't forget the smile. "You're holding your breath, you're moving your legs, you're doing the splits, you're counting, you're thinking, you're moving and you're not breathing," explains Saint Paul Star Liz Derr. For these future Olympians, the perfect make-up, colorful costumes and those permanent smiles mask the fierce competitive spirit they each need to win.

Viewers meet the young athletes from each team as they prepare for one of the most important events on the synchronized swimming calendar - the U.S. Open. They speak candidly about their ambitions, their passion and the sacrifices they make for this stunning yet strenuous sport. "Once the music starts, you just fight for it," says Aquamaid Anna Nelson. "You have to go after it with all your might."

The girls are all talented, yet vastly dissimilar. In California, the Santa Clara Aquamaids are determined to prove their worth against the best in the world. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the Saint Paul Stars swim from the heart for the love of the sport.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE follows both teams of ambitious and athletic girls - and one very determined teenage boy - through rigorous training and team bonding until they meet in a spectacular display of churning water and synchronous limbs.

THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE, a series of four one-hour films, celebrates the ambition, determination and passion of those who pursue distinction in slightly unconventional fields. Each film showcases the training and preparation required to be competitive and reveals the surprising, and sometimes heartbreaking, results of that dedication. The featured characters, diverse in background, are endearing and sympathetic, people consumed by their individual quests for excellence.