KIRKCALDY Pool will resemble a mini Olympic aquatics centre this Saturday when it hosts a major synchronised swimming event.
Spectators are being invited to attend the Scottish Club Championships, which will see teams from across the nation compete against one another for medals at the soon-to-close venue.
The town’s pool is also home to Fife Synchronised Swimming Club, and coaches Irene Glen and Lynn Hardie, and their team of 14 girls, have been hard at work preparing for the big day.
“We’re hoping for medals,” Irene told the Press.
“We were third in last year’s competition and took bronze, which was a fantastic achievement for the club as it has been a long time since we last won a medal at these championships.
“Although the club’s been going for over 20 years we only starting competing again two years ago, after a break from competition due to lack of pool space for training, and lack of coaches, so to get a medal again was a huge motivation for us.
“We’re making more entries this year and for the first time ever we’re competing in all disciplines, and our girls range in ages from nine to 19.
“The event comes to Kirkcaldy every second year, and one of the reasons is we’ve got a deep-water pool.
“New pools are built with minimum depth, which really restricts what we are able to do especially in team work and the dramatic lifts which the audiences all love to see.
“But Kirkcaldy’s is five-metres deep, which is ideal and we are very lucky to have this type of pool on our doorstep.”
The championships are split into four events – solo, duets, trios and combination team.
The Fife club will make six entries, its largest to date, including its youngest ever competitors, Kara Gallagher (10), from Kirkcaldy, and Holly Wilson (9), from Rosyth, who will compete as a duet to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face song.
Fife’s oldest swimmer, Annabel Ladomery, aged 19, will compete across three disciplines, including the club’s only solo entry, which will be set against the music Black Ice by Bo Bruce.
Irene explained: “Each performance is scrutinised by judges, who award marks on technical merit and artistic impression.
“They’ll be looking at choreography, and how they interpret the music, as well as technical elements like how high the girls go out of the water, how long they stay under water, and how much pool space they cover in one routine.”
Irene has a strong passion for the sport having spent most of her life either competing or coaching.
She was a member of the Scottish squad during the 1980s and is currently the co-ordinator of the academy programme for Scottish Synchronised Swimming.
She knows how much hard work and dedication is required to become a successful synchronised swimmer.
“It’s a fun sport to be part of, but it’s also very difficult,” she said.
“Our swimmers have to be very flexible and strong, and have good aquatic breathing skills, which are needed to maintain a high level of stamina.
“It’s a really competitive sport but the presentation of each performance also makes it a great spectator sport.
“In days gone by people didn’t have an awful lot of respect for the sport, but these girls are incredibly fit athletes.
“It’s one of the most all round demanding disciplines at the Olympics.
“It’s not just a case of putting a nose clip on, putting glitter in your hair and smiling for the cameras.
“Some of the GB athelets will be training up to 45 hours a week – and to get to that level is very difficult.”
Synchronised swimming has been in the spotlight recently following the success of swimming group, Aquabatique, on Britain’s Got Talent, while the sport will also feature at this summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Irene hopes the publicity can help her club attract new members.
“We’re more in the public eye now than we’ve ever been and we really need that – especially in Scotland,” she said.
“If we don’t have new swimmers coming into the club we won’t have the funds to hire a swimming pool – and our funds are really low just now.
“We’ve only got 14 members and we’re going to lose a couple who are going off to university and re-locating.
“All our focus just now is on the Scottish championships but we’re looking to do a recruitment drive later in the summer.
“We badly need new members. As well as competitive skills we also encourage recreation skills for youngsters who come along to keep fit and have fun to music all at the same time.”
The club trains every Thursday night in Kirkcaldy Pool, and hosts a Come and Try session for any interested swimmers on Sundays between 6.00 and 7.00 p.m at Carnegie Pool in Dunfermline. Anyone interested in joining should contact Fife Sport and Leisure Trust on (01383) 602310.
This Saturday’s Scottish Club Championships take place at Kirkcaldy Pool, from 1.00 p.m until 6.00 p.m. and spectators are welcome. There will be a small admission charge that will cover the cost of an event programme.
* IT is a big week for Fife’s synchronised swimming coach Irene Glen – in more ways than one. Not only is she leading her team into the Scottish Club Championships at Kirkcaldy Pool this Saturday, she has also been chosen as an Olympic torch bearer, and will carry the flame through Bridge of Allan next Wednesday.