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Testing the Water with the World-Famous Aquamaids on Memorial Day

Testing the Water with the World-Famous Aquamaids on Memorial DayTesting the Water with the World-Famous Aquamaids on Memorial Day

What would it be like to be “Alice (or Alex!) in Waterland?” Girls and boys, ages five to eleven, can experience what it’s like to be a Santa Clara Aquamaid on Memorial Day at the George Haines International Swim Center at Central Park.

After enjoying a free synchronized swimming exhibition, the kids can jump in the pool and try out basic techniques with coaches from Santa Clara’s very own world-famous synchronized swimming club. The club is renown for producing world-class synchronized swimmers and Olympic athletes.

The entire Santa Clara Community is invited to the 2 p.m., May 30, Aquamaids exhibition, “Alice in Waterland,” which is the story of an Aquamaid through Alice’s adventures. No tickets are needed.

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Guest performers from the Cirque du Soleil’s aqua show “O” at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas will also perform, including the most famous male synchronized swimmer in the world–Bill May, a legendary Aquamaid. (Yes, men are now allowed)

“We want to encourage more people to know about our team and encourage young people to get involved. We want to grow the sport locally and on the national level,” says Chris Carver, Aquamaids head coach since 1984. “The exhibition is our gift to the community for supporting us.”

May broke the gender barrier in a sport traditionally the realm of women alone. With Carver as their coach, May and Christina Jones, also a veteran Aquamaid, made history at the 2015 World Swimming Championships at Kazan, Russia. They won gold medals in the first world competition ever to allow a synchronized swimming performance partnering a man and a woman in a duet.

Regarded in the swimming world as “one of the most revolutionary coaches and choreographers in the history of synchronized swimming,” Carver, who was born in Palo Alto, was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in November 2015. It is but one of her many national and international awards and honors as Head Coach and Swim Program Director of the Aquamaids.

Receiving the Esther Williams award had special meaning for Carver. The aqua-musicals movie star from the 1940s and early 1950s had been Carver’s inspiration as a teenage swimmer. They met in 1984 when Williams came to Santa Clara for an awards ceremony. It was the beginning a friendship that lasted until Williams died in 2013.

“If you like music and dance, if you like gymnastics, if you love to swim, you will definitely want to be a synchronized swimmer,” says Carver, now herself an inspiration to young swimmers.

“I moved here two years ago from Puerto Rico to train with the best, and I’ve improved a lot,” says Natalia Vega, a senior at Valley Christian High School. Vega has received a full college scholarship in synchronized swimming.

“Chris is always pushing us hard to make us do better. She’s the best.”

“I’m pleased my daughter has had the opportunity to be an Aquamaid. It’s a great organization,” says Aquamaids Board Member Barbara McCreight, whose 11-year-old daughter has swum with the team for three years. “We have the good fortune that we live close enough to be part of this experience.”

Aquamaids parents raise money for the club by operating a bingo hall at 1600 Martin Ave., Santa Clara, Tuesday through Friday evenings. The bingo money pays for professional swim coaches and funds costumes and trips to competitions.

The Santa Clara Aquamaids, now with about 80 -90 swimmers, is a non-profit, member-supported swim club founded in 1964. It offers programs at various local pools for beginning- through elite-level athletes.

A good way to test the water is to sign up for a summer swim camp. Visit the website for information: www.aquamaids.org.

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