The elite Santa Clara Aquamaids—world-class synchronized swimmers—will partner with star Cirque du Soleil swimmers for “Water World,” a free, one-hour swimming exhibition on Memorial Day, May 28, 2 p.m., at Santa Clara’s Central Park International Swim Center.
A free, one-hour “Try It” swim session for boys and girls ages five to 10 follows the exhibition.
Performers from the Cirque du Soleil show “O” at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas include veteran Aquamaid Bill May, the most famous male synchronized swimmer in the world, in a mixed duet with Kanako Spendlove, retired from the Japanese Olympics team.
“The mixed duet event has become the most exciting new event in the sport internationally, and we expect it soon to be in the Olympics,” said Chris Carver, Santa Clara Aquamaids (SCA) head coach since 1984.
In 2015 in Kazan, Russia, May and veteran Aquamaid Christina Jones won gold medals in the first world aquatics competition ever to allow a synchronized swimming duet partnering a man and a woman.
The Aquamaids are renowned for producing world-class synchronized swimmers. Carver says that over 60 percent of all Olympics synchronized swimmers come from SCA.
“We look at everyone who comes into our program as a potential Olympian,” said Carver. “We give them the best coaching and keep our standards high. We’re not saying they should become Olympic swimmers; we’re just giving them the opportunity.”
There are 110 Aquamaids, including those in the less competitive Los Gatos community program. SCA has 20 full-time coaches, plus part-time coaches. Veteran Aquamaids home from college help staff summer classes.
“This is the best coaching staff we’ve ever had for every age group,” said Carver. “Anyone who puts their child in the program is getting the best coaching that they could possibly get.”
SCA Win Gold and Silver at US Nationals
SCA dominated the waters at the 2018 US Senior National Championships March 31 – April 1 in Oro Valley, AZ, and at the Junior and 13 – 15 US National Championships in Lewisville, TX, April 11 – 15.
In the junior nationals, SCA won gold medals for all events. It was high point club in the US, and Sonja Van Der Velden was named US junior coach of the year.
“We’re thrilled. It’s an incredible accomplishment to win every junior event and be such a dominant force in the country,” said Heather Dzurko, who coaches swimmers 12 and under. “It has a lot to do with our amazing coaches. We work towards excellence.”
In the senior nationals, SCA won gold medals for technical team and combo team and a silver medal in the free team competition. The high point individual, Kate Chow, came in third place in the duet.
In the 13 – 15 year old’s competition, SCA was the high point club in the US, and Heather Carrasco was named coach of the year. The high point individual, Claire Kim, won gold in the solo event, and Chira Steele won the solo silver medal. The 13 – 15 year olds also won gold medals in team and combo team and 2nd and 3rd place in the duet.
Also in junior nationals, Nikki Dzurko, the high point individual, had a grand slam, winning gold medals in four events: solo, duet with Hailee Heinrich, technical team and combo team. The duet silver medal went to Cameron Carrasco and Audrey Nguyen.
“Swimming has taught me the importance of team work, perseverance and setting goals to succeed. It has also taught me that overcoming obstacles is necessary to perform at your best and it extends to other pursuits in life,” said Nikki, who has an Ohio State University swimming scholarship.
“At college, I’m excited to continue training with the top synchro program in the country, with hopes of winning collegiate championships and going to the Olympics one day,” said Nikki.
Competitive swimming is an expensive sport. Carver explains that SCA bingo makes it affordable for all SCA swimmers, regardless of family finances. Parents volunteer their time to run the bingo games, which pay for coaching, travel, everything.
The non-profit, member-supported, SCA swimming club was founded in 1964 at Santa Clara High School and then moved to the Central Park International Swim Center.
“Santa Clara was a very forward looking City. It endorsed a woman’s sports team before Title 9. They were ahead of their time. Now, women are involved in everything, but not in the 60s,” said Carver. “It’s come full circle—now in a women’s sport, there are men.”
“The City is a pretty incredible place because they’ve always supported all youth sports. They do a great job,” said Carver.