Dolphinettes coach judges at London Olympic Games
Synchronized swimming event was stressful, but great experience
It's not every day - or even every four years - that someone makes it to the Olympics.
For coach of the Menomonee Falls Dolphinettes Synchronized Swim Team, Linda Loehndorf, it wasn't about making it to the Olympics, it was about judging them. Loehndorf spent nearly two weeks at the London Olympics judging the synchronized swim teams. She was one of 14 who decided which team went home with the gold.
"It was very exciting, but very stressful," she said. "It's a great international experience."
In synchronized swimming at the Olympics, there are seven merit judges and seven artistic impression judges. Each category is broken down into three scores: execution, difficultly and synchronicity.
The 14 judges are selected for the summer Olympics by the Federation Internationale de Natation, the international federation that governs aquatic sports including swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo. At the 2012 games, there were four judges from the Americas, five from Europe and five from Asia. Every four years new judges are chosen, making this year a once in a lifetime opportunity for Loehndorf.
Between duet and team competitions, it was a hectic 12 days for Loehndorf, but to see the level of competition and bring home new ideas for the Dolphinettes made it all worth while.
Russians rule pool
It was the Russian swimmers, who won gold for the team synchronized swimming competition, who Loehndorf remembers vividly from her time in London.
"The Russian swimmers are absolutely phenomenal. Their height, their precision they swim with, the level of difficulty, the speed is amazing," Loehndorf said. "I don't think television does them justice, but to see them in person is completely unbelievable."
Loehndorf has coached the Dolphinettes since 1981 and transformed them into a competitive team the following year. It was her desire to help the Dolphinettes improve their skills that led her to the judging table. Loehndorf decided to attend a judging clinic in the early 2000s that was held in Wisconsin and taught by an international official for synchronized swimming.
"If I knew what judges were looking for, that would help me (as a coach), so I started on the judging trail and just kept going," she said.
It was the international official - also a 2004 Olympic judge - who Loehndorf credits with setting her on the right path to becoming a judge herself.
After 30 years of coaching Menomonee Falls youth, she was able to put her own talents to the test at the world's greatest athletic stage - the London Olympics.
Contrary to popular belief, Loehndorf said synchronized swimming requires a high degree of physical fitness. Similar to water polo, the members of the Dolphinettes team have to tread water and never touch the bottom of the pool. The Dolphinettes have to be strong swimmers, as well as aerobically and anaerobically fit. Add in a high level of flexibility and the members of the Dolphinettes are powerful athletes.
The Dolphinettes welcome youth as young as 7 years old. For those who are not yet strong swimmers, a dry land program is offered that works with core strength and flexibility. Loehndorf also works with the younger swimmers on their basic swimming skills.
"We continue to work on efficiency of strokes to make them better and stronger swimmers in the water as they get older," she said. "A lot of times, (the swimmers) come from a dance or gymnastics background and they show up at our door step because they like to swim and this fits."
A beginner synchronized swim class is slated for September and youth ages 7 and older are welcome to participate.
To learn more about the class schedule or to register, call the Menomonee Falls Parks and Recreation Department at (262) 255-8460 or email Loehndorf at email@example.com.
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