Herald reporters spent a day training, eating and sleeping like an Olympian in a chosen sport. Today, Ben Hill shares his experience on his bout with synchronised swimming.

I'd never worn speedos before, and it took me about 10 minutes to build up the courage after putting them on to finally emerge from the changing rooms at the Glenfield Pools and join the North Harbour Synchronised Swimming Club's Wednesday night training.

Rugby had dominated my athletic career and synchro had never been on my radar for sports I would love to have a go at.

I expected it to be graceful and glitzy, but I seriously underestimated how difficult the three hours of training would be.


For the first hour, I was wrenched and stretched in an attempt to limber me up before I got in the water.

While the girls I would be swimming with managed to do the splits with ease, my rigid hamstrings and inflexibility meant I struggled to get anywhere close.

After being almost pulled apart, it was time to swim: speedos, nosepeg and all. We began with a few freestyle lengths of the pool and I was managing to keep up. I began to think that this synchronised swimming thing wasn't so hard after all.

My newfound confidence was then immediately shattered when the strokes became more sophisticated.

I couldn't keep up at all, despite the encouragement of coach Deirdre Harrison. She had no intention of taking it easy on me and I couldn't escape her disappointment when I had to pull off to the side of the pool and take a break when my calves and hamstrings locked out with cramp.

At this point I was battling to even tread water while the girls I was training with were powering up and down on the backs, raising their legs straight into the air in perfect timing.

Physically and emotionally wrecked, the only chance I had of restoring an inkling of pride was to go upside down in the water and stick my legs straight in the air.

I flopped backwards and tried to lock out my legs, pointing my toes and holding what I thought was the perfect vertical pose. Ready to receive the plaudits for my outstanding performance, I emerged from the depths triumphant.

Physically and emotionally wrecked, the only chance I had of restoring an inkling of pride was to go upside down in the water and stick my legs straight in the air.


I asked Harrison how it looked. "Not even close," was her reply.

I was a rarity as the only man at training that night, and I was shocked to learn that men are barred from competing in synchro events at the Olympics.

No-one could tell me why, and even former Olympian Lisa Daniels, who represented New Zealand at the 2008 Games together with her sister Nina, said it was just the way it has always been.

Hopefully my stellar efforts will inspire the International Olympic Committee to amend their policy around men and synchro (but it's more likely they'll be put off the idea forever).

Day in the life

As advised by Beijing 2008 athlete and nutritionist Lisa Daniels

• Work from 9-3, as Lisa and Nina weren't professional swimmers when they competed at the Olympics and juggled jobs

• 9.30am: Breakfast - cereal with milk and fruit and a flat white

• 11.30am: Snack - mandarin

• 1pm: Lunch - chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato, a bottle of water

• 3.30pm: Snack - muesli bar

• 6pm-9pm: Synchro training

• 10.00pm: Dinner - beef stir fry with veges and rice