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Cape Town synchronised swimmers head for the 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest

by ZwemZa on June 6th, 2022

Synchronised swimmers Laura Strugnell and Ayrton Sweeney are amped to partake in the world championships later this month. Picture: Supplied

Just four months after pairing up, two Cape Town synchronised swimmers will be jetting off to Budapest to represent South Africa at the world championships.

When Olympic swimmer Laura Strugnell, 30, and professional swimmer Ayrton Sweeney, 29, met by chance at a swimming pool earlier this year, they never imagined they would be heading to the 2022 FINA World Championships, which take place in a week’s time.

The pair met when Strugnell’s team needed a swimming pool to rehearse their synchronised routine, and someone suggested Sweeney’s newly opened lifestyle centre, All about lifestyle in Gardens.

“On the last day of their training programme, I went to check if everything was okay.

“They asked me to come in and give it a try,” said Strugnell.

“I laughed at first, jumped in and enjoyed it so much.”

They decided to form a duet in synchronised swimming in February and were approached to participate in the nationals two months later.

On May 9, they received the news that they qualified for the world championships taking place in Budapest from June 18.

They leave for Budapest on Monday, June 13.

And because the trip is self-funded, the pair took to BackABuddy to help them raise the R50 000 required.

The amount covers their return flights, accommodation, visas, Covid-19 tests, routine costumes and physiotherapy sessions.

Their BackABuddy account has reached the halfway mark and the pair are eager to head out to Budapest.

“Synchronised swimming is a new sport for me. I’ve only been doing it for four months.

“This opportunity is very special. I’ve represented South Africa before and it’s always a pleasure to put on the green and gold,” Sweeney said.

“This is my sixth world championship.

“This has been so much fun despite training so hard. I’m excited to make history with Ayrton. This sport is female-dominated and hopefully, we can start changing that.”

Strugnell said a win would be incredible.

“It’s more about the performance on the day and enjoying the swim.

“Winning is an amazing by-product of it, but finishing the routine alone is a magical feeling,” she said.

“Synchronised swimmers are trained to make it look like it’s not tough, but it is. I am looking forward to the experience.”

Sweeney is Cape Town born and raised and has been swimming for the past 22 years.

“I was at school with friends of mine and one of my friend’s parents asked me if I wanted to come swimming with them at Camps Bay. The rest is history.”

Strugnell is originally from Gauteng but has lived in Cape Town for the past ten years, and has been doing synchronised swimming for the last 25 years.

“I started swimming when I was five, because both my sisters, Ashleigh Strugnell and Kerrie Moolman did it. I used to sit at the pool with my grandmother, Patricia Lawrence,” she said.

“I always wanted to be like them. Watching them every day made me aspire to it. I started competing when I was six.”

In preparation for the competition Sweeney said they trained daily, with an hour and a half-long sessions during the week and three hours over the weekend.

Sweeney’s advice to aspiring synchronised swimmers is to never be afraid to change.

“My entire life has always been swimming but what I’m doing now is so different and I am enjoying it so much,” he said.

“For swimming or any sport, stop focusing on others. Focus on yourself,” he added.

Strugnell’s advice is to dream big.

“No goal is too big. Even if it seems challenging, you can do challenging things,” she said.

Keshia Africa | Weekend Argus

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