The artistic section of the Cahors swimming club is preparing for the regional challenge, which will take place this Saturday in Montauban. Immersion with the swimmers in the heart of the last training sessions before the big jump.
It is not yet 9:30 a.m. when the artistic section of the Cahors swimming club invades the Divonéo swimming pool, this Saturday morning, for one of their three weekly training sessions. In the four corners of the pool, the swimmers revise their choreography in view of the regional challenge. The big competition taking place in Montauban next weekend is on everyone’s lips. But the watchword of the Cadurcien club must not be forgotten: to have fun.
In all, there are about forty swimmers registered for this season. There are three groups: the future (between 7 and 12 years old), the young people (12 to 15 years old) then all categories (15 years old and over). In addition to team ballets, there are also duets and solos.
“A play in the water”
Synchronized swimming is a combination of swimming, dancing and gymnastics. “A play in the water”, according to Anne-Sophie Mercier, one of the volunteer coaches but also vice-president of the Cahors swimming club. This Saturday morning, it’s ballet rehearsal. Before throwing themselves into the big bath, the girls train in the dry, at the edge of the pools. “The arms represent the movement of the legs they make underwater. It’s a bit complicated, but they are used to it. It allows you to see their formation, even if the landmarks are not the same as in the water”, explains Anne-Sophie Mercier.
Then the swimmers jump into the water. A few lengths to warm up, and let’s go. The ballet is about to begin. Have you ever wondered how sportswomen can keep up with the times underwater? The answer is simple. Most pools have underwater speakers. Convenient. And for workouts, there are several methods. On the edge, the coaches shout the accounts. But the voice can quickly become hoarse. So, some use a metal bar plunged into the basin and tap in rhythm. Even more ingenious: bone resonance headphones. “With that, the girls hear the music. We can also talk to them, and therefore, correct them live. And that, without shouting!”, jokes Anne-Sophie.
In addition to Saturday, the girls spend two hours at the pool on Monday and Wednesday. A fairly intense pace. The first training of the week, they work on swimming, running and moving around. Then, the swimmers focus on pure technique. They also have one hour of gym per week. “Synchronized swimming is automatic. Two things are important: knowing how to do 25 meters without touching the edge and not having any apprehension about putting your head under water. The rest can be learned”, says Anne -Sophie.
The final preparations for the challenge
“They never go to see the judges in this corner. We have to find something, maybe change the diagonal”, these are the kinds of discussions we can hear at the edges of the pool this Saturday. We can also intercept a few flanges on the make-up that the girls will approach: “how far can I stretch the line?” or “we thought we would do three little dots on the temple”. But also the bun. Neither too high nor too low, it must be well placed so that the headdress can be perfectly positioned. In everyone’s mind, floats the challenge. This year is the first futures competition. “The idea is to make them discover the competition. Next year, they will join the Fina circuit (International Federation of Artistic Swimming), it’s more elitist than the challenge”, indicates Anne-Sophie. And if the girls change circuit, it’s because “it’s a good group that has the ability”.
While one group is rehearsing, the other girls step to the side of the pool and shout “Aller”. As if they were already in the stands encouraging each other. And the stress begins to rise a little in some. “The fear of not getting there. There will be the coaches, the family, we must not disappoint them”, slips Ninon, just 17 years old. Despite that, for her and Daphnée, who have synchronized swimming in their blood, competition is the best moment of a season. “We do the choreography thousands of times, but in competition, it goes super fast. When we salute, everyone laughs. It’s really the best moment,” recalls Daphnée. All that remains is to wish them good luck.
Falling numbers, complicated seasons
40 swimmers, the artistic section of the Cahors Swimming club has known better. “Covid hurt us. Here, we weren’t allowed to train in the outdoor pool. We lost swimmers because doing video gym didn’t suit them. They, what ‘they wanted is to be in the water,’ laments Anne-Sophie Mercier. And this year, with the roof collapsing, it also took a toll on the section. Not to mention the drop in pool temperatures. “Some girls are cold,” blows the vice-president of the club. And indeed, two young girls are training in combination this Saturday.
In addition, to supervise them, the six coaches are volunteers. Jacqueline Lacaze, the oldest judge in Occitania. “She brings us a lot, it’s a well of knowledge,” smiles the coach. Volunteers, too, are beginning to run out. “We have lost a lot of them. And those who are still there, they are starting to run out of steam”, concludes Anne-Sophie Mercier.