Tauranga synchronised swimmers Eden Worsley, Isobel Pettit, Karlina Steiner, and Eva Morris have returned home from two South American competitions as medal-winning performers with their sights set on their next competition.
The four swimmers were part of the nine-strong New Zealand Team, coached by Tauranga-based three-time Brazilian Olympian Lara Teixeira Cianciarulo, that competed at the Argentina and Brazil opens.
The Senior Free Team score3d a silver medal for their race-car themed routine at the Argentina Open, then took out a bronze medal at the Brazil Open with a score of 74.3 - the highest score a New Zealand team has ever achieved internationally.
New Zealand captain, Tauranga's Eva Morris, added more medals to her haul in the Senior Free Solo and Senior Tech Solo events at both events.
She collected silver and bronze at the Argentina Open and two bronzes at the Brazil Open.
At the Argentina Open, Karlina Steiner impressed the judges in the 13/14/15 Solo event to score silver, and Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit were fourth and sixth in the Junior Tech Duet and Junior Free Duet categories respectively.
Morris said they were all "really stoked", especially since they went over without any expectations of medal-placings and instead focusing on gaining experience.
She said to have achieved both was satisfying, especially since they were competing against people who were fulltime synchronised swimmers in training for the Olympics.
One of the highlights for Morris was being in Brazil, the home country of Cianciarulo, who was not only Morris' "amazing" coach in the New Zealand team but also her coach at Tauranga Synchro.
Synchro Swim New Zealand chairwoman Shirley Hooper said between competitions Cianciarulo took the team to her old club in Sao Paulo, where they trained alongside Brazilian athletes with Cianciarulo's former Olympic coach.
The Brazil Open was particularly special for Cianciarulo as the team competed at the same pool in Rio de Janeiro that she swam in for the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Lara is like synchronised swimming royalty in South America," Hooper said.
"Everyone in the sport knows who she is. She's a really experienced athlete and a highly motivating coach. We are very lucky to have her as our local coach and also as New Zealand's national coach."
The Junior Free Team, which included Worsley, Pettit and Steiner from Tauranga, also had solid performances in both events. They were third in Argentina and fourth in Brazil.
"Tauranga really is a great place to be a synchronised swimmer," Hooper says.
Hooper was impressed with the efforts of the local national athletes, achieving "outstanding results against strong competition".
"It's absolutely fantastic for them to get international experience at this level. Winning medals on the international stage is a huge boost for their confidence."
Hooper did not think many people understood how difficult synchronised swimming was, describing it as "like running a marathon while holding your breath upside down in water".
"It takes a lot of time and effort to master. Plus these girls are juggling about 15-20 hours of training each week in the pool and gym, around their school and, or work commitments, as well as attending training camps during the school holidays. Being able to compete internationally makes all those hours of hard work worth it."
Morris said she and the rest of the athletes would now be focusing on a training camp in January in a bid to get a "strong team together" for the FINA World Championships in Korea in 2019.
They also have further future international goals on top of Korea, Steiner is also looking towards the FINA Junior World Championships in 2020, with the major goal of the Paris Olympics in 2024 for all.
The Senior Free Team including Tauranga's Eden Worsley, Isobel Pettit, Karlina Steiner, and Eva Morris: Silver for their race-car themed routine at the Argentina Open; Bronze medal at the Brazil Open.
The Junior Free Team including Tauranga's Eden Worsley, Isobel Pettit and Karlina Steiner: Bronze in Argentina, 4th in Brazil.
Eva Morris (Individual): Silver and bronze at the Argentina Open; Two bronze at the Brazil Open.
Karlina Steiner (Individual): Silver in the 13/14/15 Solo event.
Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit (Pairs): Fourth in the Junior Tech Duet, 6th in the Junior Free Duet.
About Tauranga Synchro:
The club is always on the lookout for new swimmers to join.
Beginners train at 9am at Baywave every Saturday morning during the school terms.
For more information, contact Jo on 027 543 1697, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on Facebook @taurangasynchroNZ.