A group of 11- and 12-year-old swimmers from the East End will be competing at the 2012 ESPOIR, Canadian National Synchonized Swimming Championships, May 24 to 27 at the Etobicoke Olympium. But for the first time, organizers will allow girls in this particular age group to compete in a 12U (12 and under) age category. In previous years, they had to make the jump from 10U to the 13-15 category.
The girls are members of the Variety Village Synchro Club and have qualified to compete in this pilot program for younger synchronized swimmers.
Maura McLean, 11, has been swimming with the Variety Village group since 2007, when she joined the club’s Little Mermaids program. Since then Maura and her team have won awards at every level of competition. In past years, Maura has medalled in team, duet and solo events.
“Variety Village Synchro Club really puts a lot of emphasis on training their young swimmers and they’ve been one club that has stood out in Ontario for winning with their young group,” said Maura’s mother, Eileen Barry.
Maura and her teammates train most days of the week and weekends, but the payoff includes not only athletic achievements, but learning positive life skills such as co-operating with others, time management, and life-long fitness. The girls are friends outside of the pool, too.
“Maura loves being part of the club and feels she is part of a really great group of people,” said Barry. “And the coaches are phenomenal women. It’s such nice role modelling for the girls.”
The 12U team will represent Ontario at the upcoming Nationals event. From there, the girls may be thinking about a future Olympic opportunity, but they have a few years to go. Olympian synchronized swimmers are usually in their mid-20s.
But Maura doesn’t think about where things will go at her age.
“She just goes and has a good time,” said Barry. “[The girls] really do have fun. They’re all smiling and laughing and truly joyful.”