Our Olympic mermaids
The thousands of hours spent finessing the specialised skills to compete on the world stage will come to fruition for two Queenslanders, Eloise Amberger and Sarah Bombell, when they compete in the synchronised swimming duet and team event at the London Olympics later this month.
As Australia's best performed synchronised swimmers, they know all about hard work.
"We both train between 30 to 50 hours a week depending on whether we are in training camp or not," says Eloise. "Of course we love the sport and it will all be worthwhile when we get to compete against the best teams in the world. The Olympic Games are obviously the pinnacle of any sport, and it's an absolute honour to represent Australia."
Both girls are water babies who grew up with swimming pools in their backyard, playing in and around the pool, making up routines, practising their creative dives and generally splashing about.
"From these humble beginnings, who knew we would end up at the Olympics?! It's a dream come true," says Eloise. "I first saw synchro on TV when I was young and it immediately appealed to me as it meshed my love of swimming with dance and gymnastics."
Sarah says: "I first came across synchro when I was at the pool doing squad training and saw some girls doing it. I thought it looked like more fun than following the ‘black line', so I gave it a go."
Synchronised swimming was first popularised by Esther Williams in the 1940s, who starred in numerous elaborately staged Hollywood films such as ‘Bathing Beauty' and ‘Million Dollar Mermaid'.
Originally called water ballet, synchronised swimming requires a combination of grace and explosive energy. The athletes leap, twirl, spin, float and glide in the water, often lifting their bodies out of the water from the waist up - all without being able to touch the bottom of the pool. They also require exceptional breath control for when upside down underwater to perform difficult routines.
Eloise says: "I love the sport because it's always a challenge and continuously changing. Athletes are always pushing the boundaries of what is ‘natural' and what is ‘possible' and it's exciting to master new techniques and hone new skills."
Sarah agrees she likes a challenge. "There is no such thing as perfection so you are constantly pushing yourself to be better."
The duo's goal for the London Olympic Games is to equal or better their 2008 Olympics result, which was seventh in the team event. They would also like to place in the top 20 for their duet performance.
Apart from her aqua activities, Ella is completing a Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Forensics and Biochemistry. Sarah has a Bachelor degree in Exercise Science and she will return to university after the Olympics to finish her Masters degree in Physiotherapy.
"When I'm not training, competing or studying, I work on my jewellery business or enjoy relaxing with friends, though there never seems to be enough hours in the day for this thing they call ‘spare time!'" says Eloise.
Adds Sarah: "In my spare time I have a casual job in retail. Apart from that I just like to try and relax and savour it as I rarely get spare time."
Eloise has been involved in the sport for 14 years, while Sarah has been involved for 19 years.
Synchronised swimming will take place at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park. The duet is from 5 - 7 August and the team event is from 9 - 10 August.
We wish these amazing mermaid athletes all the best and every success at the Games.