The 52 to 82-Year-Old Synchronized Swimmers
Last summer retired IBM sales rep Kathleen Richards had barely recovered from chemotherapy when she strapped on her waterproof iPod, cranked up the Abba, and plunged into the pool at her health club in Hudson, Ohio. "I couldn't wait to get back in the water," she says. Richards, 64, is part of synchronized swim team In Sync, whose members range in age from 52 to 82. "I had no hair and a skinny spaghetti body, and could hardly put one foot in front of the other, but I thought, 'I'm going to do that 'Dancing Queen' solo!'"
In Sync—which includes four grandmothers and two great-grandmothers—began as a fitness class dreamed up by 1956 national synchro champion Betty Buckles, now 75; once the students had mastered basic skills (such as "sculling," a propeller-like stroking motion), they began choreographing routines and swimming for audiences. Last January, at the dedication of a retirement community's new aquatic center, they created floating kick lines and flowerlike formations worthy of Busby Berkeley, set to the tune of "You Make Me Feel So Young."
"I think I was an otter in a past life, or maybe a dolphin," Buckles says. But even those lacking cetacean DNA can learn synchro, and In Sync is the proof. "Whenever someone says, 'I can't do this skill,' there's someone else to say, 'Last year I couldn't do it either, but just watch me now!'" —Jessica Stockton Clancy