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News > Sport

Jamaica's Synchronized Swim Team Makes a Splash

  • Members of the Island Aquatics Synchro team.

    Members of the Island Aquatics Synchro team. | Photo: Island Aquatics Synchro Club

Published 1 February 2018

Two-time Russian Olympic gold medalist Olga Novokshchenova now coaches five athletes at her house: all girls aged between nine and 17.

In Jamaica, some young girls from the Island Aquatics Synchro team have taken to the sport of synchronized swimming and are making the Caribbean nation proud.

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Olga Novokshchenova, a Russian two-time Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming, began teaching the art starting with one student out of her home in Port Antonio. 

She started with one student, the daughter of a friend, Novokshchenova told the New York Times, "That poor girl, she was actually dreaming to do springboard diving, but we didn’t have that, so I said, ‘Well you are going to have to do synchronized swimming,’" 

Novokshchenova now coaches five athletes at her house, with girls aged between nine and 17. But she has taught nearly 100 swimming students over the 12 years she has lived in the region. 

Joydayne Whyte, nine, was three years old when she first made up her mind to become an Olympic athlete. It was when she saw synchronized swim teams competing in the Olympics with their colorful costumes and eye-catching makeup. 

“I want to do that!” she exclaimed to her mother, Andrea Rodgers, NYT reported. 

“My dream is to make synchronized swimming more known in Jamaica,” said 15-year-old Nyouka Baugh, who has been swimming for seven years. 

Speaking of her first competition, Baugh told the New York Times, she was scared to perform in front of an audience. "I hated the water. It was really cold." 

Two-time Russian Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming, Olga Novokshchenova, and other officials with members of the Island Aquatics Synchro team at 2017 Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) Swimming Championships in Couva, Trinidad. PHOTO: Island Aquatics Synchro Club

The five-member team, Ajoni Llewellyn, 17; Katana Blount, 10; Joydayne Whyte, nine; Laila Bailey, 12; and Nyouka Baugh, 15, competed for the first time at a major event in 2013 at the UANA Pan American Synchronized Swimming Championships. The team finished “dead last” said Jacqueline Neil, the team’s manager, and Ajoni’s mother. “But the exposure was great. The girls had a whale of a time, and despite everything, they were the stars,” she said. “There were very few black teams," she told NYT. 

In 2015, the team came fourth in the same competition, making it the highest place Jamaica has ranked.
“We actually made history because it was the first time coming so close up in that kind of a competition,” Nyouka said. "It felt good."

"The club is self-funded, and the swimmers’ parents pay about US$100 every three months, not including international traveling costs, tournament fees, training expenses and competition swimsuits. 

It also relies on private donations and organizes fund-raisers to pay for the team’s overseas trips and expenses," according to NYT.

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