Merging the elements of ballet and gymnastics, synchronized swimming allows athletes to challenge themselves in a multitude of ways. It’s a sport where athletes can explore an element of theatrical acting, wear sparkly outfits, and perform precise and seemingly effortless routines that push their bodies to their endurance limits. U of T’s Synchronized Swimming Club has a strong history of success and challenges.

The significance of 2001

U of T was one of the first four Canadian universities to start competing in provincial synchronized swimming competitions with a Varsity team, along with Queen’s University, Western University, and McGill University. For a sport to meet Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) criteria for a recognized OUA sport, six participating Varsity teams must already exist. Therefore, it wasn’t until McMaster University and Guelph University began competing with their teams later that synchronized swimming held Varsity status and became a recognized sport in the OUA. 

In 2001, McMaster University lost its Varsity synchronized swimming team, leaving the OUA with only five Varsity teams. Despite attempts from students at other universities to create Varsity teams, all such efforts were rejected or failed, ending synchronized swimming’s involvement in the OUA.

After losing its status in the OUA, participating universities were left to create club versions of their synchronized swimming teams instead. Despite this setback, the creation of the Canadian University Artistic Swimming League (CUASL) allowed student athletes to participate in a competitive inter-university competition with their clubs across Canada. 


Last year, at nationals, the University of Toronto team received the CUASL’s championship trophy. 

The team worked hard to succeed. “It was really amazing to see everyone giving it everything they had,” wrote Lucy Tempest, a third-year kinesiology undergraduate, in an email to The Varsity. “It was so rewarding and [it was] just a really great time.”

With the weight of this accomplishment, the team plans to achieve first place this year as well. “It was an amazing moment,” wrote Lindsay McLean, a student at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) and a member of the club, in an email with The Varsity. Students from any Toronto university or college can participate in U of T’s synchronized swimming club, as many schools such as TMU and OCAD do not have their own synchronized swimming clubs. “[It] showed [that] our hard work and dedication had paid off,” McLean added.

Synchronized swimming in Canadian university clubs has seen a growth in technique, so the team needs to focus on choreography to be fun for athletes to perform but also strategic with these new expectations. “We have a national championship title to defend this year,” Tempest wrote. “As well as new rule changes to navigate.” 


Smile, swim, repeat 

Avery Noll, a fourth-year kinesiology undergraduate, explains that even though the team is successful, there is still much more to love than competition. “Sport isn’t [just about] the ribbons, medals or trophies,” Noll explained in an email to The Varsity. “If you [think that], you [will] miss [what makes]… the journey important and memorable. Sometimes, that means that you have to push yourself a little.” 

The club has created a very tight-knit community that fosters inclusivity, and periodically, the student-athletes participate in team outings and bonding opportunities — such as potlucks — to enhance teamwork. 

“We [hang out] outside of practice when possible, as friends and teammates,” Noll wrote. “Our team gels very well, we all encourage each other’s ideas and love laughing with each other… I feel very fortunate to have them in my life.” 

“I love the community that synchro has [and] I will always recommend trying synchro,” said Ben Hackerson, a second-year undergraduate in women and gender studies as well as sexual diversity studies. “Everyone is so welcoming and willing to teach.” 

Synchronized swimming is rooted in a community where athletes stay in love with their sport beyond their years of competing. Emma Jewer, the current coach of U of T’s novice team, swam competitively for seven years and fell in love with the sport. Yet, after developing a chronic injury, she was forced to retire.

Nevertheless, she soon found U of T’s synchro team on Instagram. “It turns out they were looking for a coach, so I happily volunteered,” Jewer explained in an email to The Varsity. As a result, she was able to continue to immerse herself in her beloved sport, but this time as a coach. 


The circle of sport 

If you’re interested in testing your limits and embracing the opportunity to give artistic swimming a chance, U of T’s Synchronized Swimming Club typically holds tryouts the second week of each fall semester. They welcome everyone at all levels, including beginners, as there are CUASL categories for beginners and professionals. “We always welcome new athletes,” Jewer wrote. 

“I was new to the sport [and] I didn’t understand much about it, so [I] just came to practices to learn,” Catherine Wang, a second-year undergraduate, wrote to The Varsity. “But now, as a second-year with more experience with synchro, I realized that I’ve developed a deeper appreciation and actual passion for the sport.” 

The team has coaches who are truly passionate about their athletes and their performances. “It’s all about recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your athletes, and [highlighting] the strengths in the choreography you give them,” McLean wrote. “You want to make [the athletes] feel confident and look their best.” Unlike its Varsity teams, the university does not fund sports clubs. As a result, the synchro team pays for their outfits and transportation to competitions. To help alleviate the burden, the team hosts numerous fundraising events throughout the school year, such as bake sales and bar nights. They advertise all events on their Instagram, and more information can be found on their Instagram page: @uoftsynchro.