In July, the Santa Clara Artistic Swimming 13-15 competitive program participated in an international exchange program as part of USA Synchro’s International Club Exchange (ICE). Athletes from Santa Clara Artistic Swimming, USA, and Pays d’Aix Natation (PAN), France, formed a lifetime bond during two wonderful summer weeks. During the first week PAN visited Santa Clara and during the second week our athletes made an exciting trip to Provence, France. This international exchange is the third for the US Synchro’s ICE program and the first the for SCA and PAN.
The goal of the exchange program was to provide our girls an opportunity to experience synchronized swimming in another culture. Although the group struggled with English and French at times, they bonded as synchro sisters. Land drilling and eight counts were their common language.
The clubs learned new training techniques in each country—walking on their toes in France (ouch!) and multiple unders in California. They had five days of training in each country along with aerial yoga and dance classes. In addition, Bill May, mixed duet world champion, and Virginie Dedieu, three time world soloist champion, coached with the group. Two routines for practice was created especially for this exchange program. SCA Coach and two time Olympian Bianca Van der Velden created a Yankee Doodle Dandy routine for California training. For training in France, PAN Coach Alexia Vito choreographed a routine to a French song “Je n’y suis jamais allé.“
With very short training, the 18 girl squad performed impressively in front of a crowd of 800 at the Gala de Salon Provence with the French National Team. In addition, they also performed at a special Gala in Fuveau for parents and friends of the PAN team.
The athletes proved to be gracious hostesses and ambassadors of their clubs and hometowns. In California, the PAN group experienced July 4th celebrations, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santana Row, and boating on Lake Vasona. The groups traveled together to Aix en Provence, France, where they visited village markets, lavender fields. And of course, they tried swimming in the Verdon Gorge and Mediterranean off the beach town of Cassis. They celebrated Bastille Day and the French World Cup Soccer victory together. Allez les Bleus!
The program’s success was visible in the hugs and tears as everyone said their final adieus on July 23rd. But, the memories and friendships lasts forever.