Every four years synchronized swimming emerges from the deep-end of the sports pool and captures the general public’s attention during the Olympics.
The sport does not receive the accolades or participation levels of competitive swimming, but an ardent group of participants continues to perpetuate the sport enabling the United States to secure Olympic berths.
It is now our turn to investigate synchronized swimming in depth and one of its superstars, Mary Killman.
This year, the United States qualified one duet and not the team for London. Mary Killman and partner Mariya Koroleva will be the only competing American synchronized swimmers in London.
Russia has owned the top Olympic podium spot in duet synchronized swimming every year since Americans Karen and Sarah Josephson won gold in 1992. But before anything is conceded to the reigning champions know this: Koroleva was born in Russia and Killman comes from the same Native American tribe as Jim Thorpe. Pretty good bloodlines…
When INFOtainment News interviewed Mary Killman about the USA’s chances in synchronized swimming, we found an incredibly vibrant woman, who is both one wicked good athlete and the world’s best breath holder. More on the latter, later.
We asked Mary to describe her synchro style, “I’ve been a soloist my whole life. I can move a little more ‘flowy.’” Flowy? Tell me more, “I can get in a lot of positions people can’t.” So how does that mesh with best friend, roommate and partner Mariya? “She’s a lot more on the beat. She’s more sharp. She moves very quickly. My style is more towards the free routine. We help each other a lot.”
In a sport that requires both athleticism and charm, the curb appeal of both precision and artistic interpretation in one dyad provides a strength-reinforcing-strength quality that makes Killman-Koroleva a hit with judges.
“Russia [and] Japan are technical. [They] may be more harsh than artistic judges from [say] America. It depends on how things are going and how the judges are performing to bring that across from them.”
So is a performance-artist like Mary in a sport like synchronized swimming a competitive athlete? You bet your bathing suit and palette of makeup she is! Consider this – Mary trains like many of us. She does twice weekly boot camps and one weight workout. Unlike us, on top of that, she trains twice-a-day, four times a week for three to four hours in the pool! And on the days she’s not swimming two-a-days, she’s still training in the pool!
To clarify, she said at some practices she swims 50-yard repeats to build cardio. The 50-yard repeat is a staple of competitive swimmers, triathletes, and open water swimmers. But, unlike many of us, including Lance Armstrong, who recently said he does these reps in a blistering 40 seconds, Mary swims 50-yard repeats in a torpedo-like 35 seconds.
You still not getting it??? Take a watch to the pool and see how many 50s (one down-and-back lap) you can swim at that pace and report back to us. If you can pump out a bunch of them, we want to interview you for our next round of Olympic profiles.
Mary Killman is part Native American, a Citizen Potawatomi Nation member like Jim Thorpe, two-time Olympic gold medalist and a man some have called the greatest athlete of the 20th century. About her heritage Mary told us, “My Native American background is a big part of me. I’ve always been proud of it. I think it’s only recently come up. I’ve always looked up to Jim Thorpe, for years… I connect with having this in my background. When I had to do a paper in school on someone I [admired], it was always Jim Thorpe.”
As three guys who, admittedly, knew little about the sport going into the interview, we asked her some light questions too. She told us how long it takes to put on makeup, but since the answer was like five minutes long and about smoky eyes (Sorry Mary, we glazed over on that answer), all we can tell you is it takes a waaaaaaay long time to get on that makeup, and the get-up-and-go approach is nowhere near adequate to get it done.
Regarding the music for her routine, many of the acts we see on the big stages perform to classical pieces, you know, reflective of the serious nature of the Olympics. When asked if her duet could perform to LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” she told us that at some point she saw a routine to their song, “Shots.” Can you imagine the Russian judge on that one?
Our interview with Mary went so well, we laughed our way through many of the questions and just had THE most enjoyable time. I even had a slight lapse in judgement and somehow forgot that we were talking with a world class athlete. So, at perhaps less-than-better-judgment, I, your fearless author, challenged America’s greatest synchronized swimmer to a hold-your-breath contest. Guesses? Okay, after like 50 seconds of agonizing anaerobic, searing pain, I caved. She, on the other hand, smiled and swayed back and forth like a true artistic performer. Afterwards, she brushed back her hair and proved she does not have gills.
TeamUSA – Synchronized Swimming
Storified by James Hicks · Wed, Jun 06 2012 01:23:39