Competitive synchro categories
Updated: May 21, 2022
There are four main categories currently recognized in international competition:
Solos - An individual swimmer synchronizes with the music.
Duets - A swimmer coordinates movements with a partner and in time with the music.
Teams - Four to eight swimmers perform movements in coordination with each other and the music. Teams normally consist of eight swimmers, but must have a minimum of four. For each swimmer under eight, a team is penalized, because it's easier to synchronize fewer people in a routine.
Combos - A team routine where up to 10 swimmers perform in one continuous routine. However, during the routine, different numbers of swimmers will perform in different segments.
The competitive rules and manner of judging for synchro are similar to other sports like gymnastics and figure skating, with marks given for execution, artistic impression and difficulty. The solo event was contested in previous Summer Olympics (1984, 1988 and 1992) but currently, only the duet and team events are part of the Olympic program.
In most senior-level and international competitions (including the Olympics), swimmers will perform two routines for the judges in each event - one technical, and one free. Technical routines include a set of predetermined elements which must be performed in a specific order. Free routines have no requirements, so swimmers can be more creative in their movements and choreography. Scores from technical routines and free routines are added together to determine final placements.
Age Group competitions don't include technical routines. Instead, swimmers compete in a compulsory figure competition. During figure competition, each swimmer performs set movements (without music) in front of a panel of judges, which are scored based on criteria such as height, extension, alignment, flexibility, and control. Swimmers' scores from the figure competition are added to their routine scores to determine final placement.
Age Group competitors in the US are classified by and compete in the following age categories: 12 and Under, 13-15, 16-17 and 18-19. Swimmers are permitted to swim up into a higher age group, but cannot swim in a group younger than their age. Age groups are determined by what age the swimmers will be by December 31 of the year in which they're competing.
Below are the competitions that PTX swimmers are eligible to participate in, based on their ages and skill levels:
Novice: Youth beginners who can compete at some local championships and invitationals, according to their age group.
Intermediate: More-advanced youth beginners who can compete at some local championships and invitationals, according to their age group.
12 and Under: Compete at local Southwestern Association Championships, with the top-three in each category qualifying for the Regional Junior Olympic Championships (state of Texas). Those who place in the top-three at Regionals can compete at the Junior Olympic National Championships.
13-15: In addition to Southwestern Association, Regional and JO National meets, athletes 13 and older can compete at the South Zone Regional Championships. Qualifying 13-15 swimmers can also attend 13-15 Nationals. Elite 15-year-olds who qualify can compete in Junior (15-18) and Senior (15 and older) Nationals and the Junior and Senior US Open.
16-19: Compete at Southwestern Association, Regional and JO National meets and the South Zone Regional Championships. Elite swimmers who qualify can compete in Junior (15-18) and Senior (15 and older) Nationals and the Junior and Senior US Open.
Junior: Elite athletes ages 15-18 who can qualify to attend junior-level regional, national and international competitions such as Junior Zones, Junior Nationals and the Junior US Open.
Senior: Elite athletes ages 15 and older who can qualify to attend senior-level regional, national and international competitions such as Senior Zones, Senior Nationals and the Senior US Open.
Masters: Swimmers of all skill levels, ages 20 and older (25 and older for international competitions). Swimmers compete in 10-year age groupings (20-29, 30-39, etc.), with teammates of different ages competing in the group where their average age falls. Masters can choose to attend invitational competitions, US Masters Nationals as well as the FINA World Masters Championships without any qualifying scores.