Did you know Oviedo has its own synchronized swimming team?
Meet the Synchro Belles, adorable young ladies who are tackling this demanding sport with grace and gusto.
It’s a cool Saturday morning in early March at Riverside Aquatics in Oviedo. Except for the rustling of a few trees and chirping of the birds, all is calm and quiet at poolside. Soon, though, that’s about to change. A group of young girls with their hair tied up in buns, wearing electric-pink T-shirts, parents in tow, enter the confines of the pool deck, playfully talking and giggling with one another. They’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of their coach, Yasmin Daiha. While some kids are happy to start the weekend by sleeping in, these girls are eager to jump in... to the pool, that is.
Meet the Oviedo Synchro Belles, a small but extraordinary group of youngsters who recently bested 15 other teams at February’s synchronized swim meet in West Palm Beach to take first- and fifth-place honors for the intermediate and novice team, respectively.
Though the sport of synchronized swimming can be traced back to ancient times, for most old enough to remember, it is likely to conjure up memories of the 1940s aqua musical extravaganzas featuring swimming-champion-turned-actress Esther Williams. But for all its popularity in the movies, it would take almost 40 years for synchronized swimming to achieve worldwide recognition for its athleticism, as much as its aesthetics, when the Olympic Games of 1984 sanctioned it as a competitive sport.
Though the history may be lost on some of the Oviedo Synchro Belles, whose oldest member is only 14, their love and commitment to the sport is abundantly clear the moment they take their first plunge into the pool to do their warmups before practicing their routines.
Looking at her young charges, Coach Yasmin, having been a synchro swimmer herself and Junior Olympian competitor, says with a knowing smile, “If you want to see if you’re in good shape, try synchronized swimming.”
Sometimes described as a blend of athletic swimming, gymnastics, and ballet set to music, synchronized swimming requires, at its most basic level, the ability to swim and dance at the same time. It also requires incredible strength, breath control, and discipline to execute choreographed routines. Consider treading water upside down while gracefully moving in sync with your team members. Just watching is enough to take one’s breath away!
Eight-year-old Katherine Restrepo, whose mom is on the board of the Flagler Synchro Belles – the parent organization of the Oviedo chapter – succinctly sums up her reason for being a Synchro Belle: “It’s fun and it makes me strong.”
Mom Kimberly says her daughter always seemed to love the water and enjoyed putting on performances to music in the family pool. It’s what got her thinking about a class in synchronized swimming for Katherine, who was only six at the time. But, she could find no local program.
That’s when Kimberly learned about the Flagler Synchro Belles, which was branching out into Seminole County. A nonprofit organization based out of Palm Coast, the Flagler Synchro Belles was started in 2000 by a group of swimmers and their parents under the guidance and coaching of former competitive speed swimmer Isabella Vasconcellos, also a former synchro swimmer in her native Brazil. Over the years, the Flagler Synchro Belles won many local, regional, and national championships. This, thought Kimberly, was the perfect place for her daughter Katherine.
Since its inception in 2017, the Oviedo chapter of the Synchro Belles has gained interest among parents who, like Kimberly, found a class for their children that took swimming to a whole other level of creativity and fun. Currently, the Oviedo Synchro Belles have two teams (intermediate and novice). Some of the Oviedo swimmers hope to make it to the Junior Olympian level someday. The teams train several days a week with Coach Yasmin, all under the direction of head coach Carolyn Vasconcellos, the founder’s daughter.
“For competition, we arrive as a unified team with the girls from Palm Coast,” explains Kimberly.
Considering the Oviedo Synchro Belles began only two years ago, they are doing swimmingly well and are looking forward to the Sunshine State Games in June. The program is open to both girls and boys, ages five through 18, and the Oviedo Synchro Belles are hoping to grow significantly in the coming months and years as more local kids take the plunge to join in the fun.
To learn more about the team, email FlaglerCountySynchroBelles@gmail.com
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