Synchronzied Swimming Rules and Regulations

Judging the Events


Ever wonder how one synchronized swim team among dozens of seemingly flawless others wins the judges over for the chance at gold? Then read on! This article is about how synchronized swim judging works.

What follows are some basic *FINA guidelines for judging international synchronized swimming competitions. National and local competitions use similar rules with certain modifications. So when you tune in to this summer's London Olympic Games, you'll know why some synchronized teams will rise to the top, while others may barely stay afloat.

*FINA: (Federation Internationale de Natation) The governing body for aquatic sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The three main points covered in this piece are:

The Events

Synchronized swim competitions offer seven events under two general routine categories: Technical and Free. According to the FINA website, both routines include three events each: solo, duet, and team. The six events, plus a free routine "combination", makes a total of seven synchronized swim events contested in the international games.

Technical: A routine involving elements that must be performed in a series, and in a specific order.

Free: A routine involving no restrictions on music, choreography, or elements.

Judging the Events

According to official rules and regulations, Olympic synchronized swim competitions are scored by a panel of ten judges who award points for two things:

In each of the events, five judges score swimmers solely on swimmers' technical merits, and five on the artistic impression they have on the judges.

The Judging and Scoring of Technical Merits

The judges' Technical Merit Score is the sum of points earned for the following three elements:

Execution of strokes refers to the quality of the swimming strokes, propulsion techniques, figures, and patterns and transitions. Execution of technical elements comprise 50 percent of a solo routine score, and 40 percent on duet, team, and combination scores.

Synchronization is how closely the swimmers match one another, and move with the music. Synchronization makes up 10 percent of the solo score, and 30 percent of the duet, team, and combination scores.

Difficulty has to do with the height of movements above water, and the "complexity and multiplicity of movements, strength required, the length of time movements require, and complexity of synchronization." [FINA, Synchronized Swimming, Structure of the Sport,] Overall difficulty makes up 40 percent of a solo score, and 30 percent of the duet, team, and combination scores.

The Judging and Scoring of Artistic Impression

The judges' Artistic Impression Score is the sum of points earned for the following elements:

Choreography should include a variety of moves. Moves should be creative, fluid, have smooth transitions, and make good use of the pool, according to official rules. Choreography is comprised of 50 percent solo, duet, and team events, and 60 percent combination.

Music interpretation uses movement to interpret dynamics and rhythms of the music. Music interpretation comprises 20 percent of the solo score, and 30 percent of the duet, team, and combination scores.

The manner of presentation is the swimmers' poise and ability to communicate through the choreography, and seeming effortlessness in executing the routine. Manner of presentation makes up 30 percent of the solo score, 20 percent of the duet and team scores, and 10 percent combination.

The Score


Execution, Synchronization, and Difficulty scores = Technical Merits Score

Choreography, Music Interpretation, and Manner of Interpretation scores = Artistic Impression Score

Judges award scores from 0 to 10 (anywhere from "completely failed" to "perfect") in increments of one-tenth of a point.

Near Perfect9.9 - 9.5
Excellent9.4 - 9.0
Very Good8.9 - 8.0
Good7.9 - 7.0
Competent6.9 - 6.0
Satisfactory5.9 - 5.0
Deficient4.9 - 4.0
Weak3.9 - 3.0
Very Weak2.9 - 2.0
Hardly Recognizable1.9 - 0.01
Completely Failed0


If you've ever tried to perfectly match another's graceful moves in the water just for fun, you probably found out that synchronized swimming isn't as easy as it looks! Like any other sport, it takes years of discipline and mastery before a team makes it to the panel of discriminating judges at a world class competition. Hopefully, you now have some idea how synchronized swim events are judged. So when you tune into this summer's London Games you'll have a better idea why the judges are going wild over one team, and cast a gloomy prediction over another. And maybe you'll even be able to predict the outcome.

References: Synchronized Swimming Rules - Judgement of Routines Retrieved July 15, 2012, from
Synchronized Swimming, Structure of the Sport Retrieved July 15, 2012, from

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