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Don't tell them it's not a sport: these North Shore girls reckon synchronised swimming is as tough as it gets
Big smiles, perfectly in tune, moving through the water seemingly without effort, the girls are stark contrast to the rugby team splashing in the pool behind them.
Fendi Thien and Emily Shaw are the upand- coming stars of synchronized swimming.
There are no oranges at halftime but it's just as gruelling as a First XV clash or 90 minutes of soccer.
Synchronised swimming requires strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and timing.
Chucked into the deep end, the two 16-year-old North Shore girls recently proved they have the potential to reach the top in their sport.
Three weeks ago, the duo won gold at the North Island secondary schools championships with Thein also winning the solo competition.
The wins followed their successes at the Oceania championship earlier in the year. There, Thein took gold in the junior gold category and Shaw in the team event.
But the girls say the successes don't necessarily mean their next event, early in October will be a breeze. It's the New Zealand secondary schools competition.
"There are some very strong South Island teams that will be coming up for it. It is going to be tough," says Thein.
The girls met when their parents encouraged them to give synchronized swimming a go. As soon as they tried it, they realised they liked it.
"It's really fun and it's really different," they say.
Synchronised swimming president Sue Edwards says there are about 350 members; of whom 250 are active athletes.
"The nature of our sport is very demanding. And in their mid-teens a lot of girls want a life. Synchro is a considerable time commitment. It is growing, but very slowly. Most train for 3-4 hours [a day], depending on the level they are competing at."
So, how far are these girls prepared to take it?
Shaw says the 2012 London Olympics would be a massive commitment.
"I don't think I am going to go for it. You have to give up too much."
But Thein has other ideas: "It will be a lot of hard work but it will be worth it. I want to start working towards the 2012 team."