SURREY, BC February 15, 2018 – Synchronized swimmers made history this weekend in Surrey, BC, Canada when athletes with and without disabilities competed together on the same team. The team from the BC Aquasonics Synchronized Swim Club entered this combined team into the new mixed ability competition category, which creates inclusive development and competition opportunity for all athletes.

“Canada has long been a world leader in adaptive synchronized swimming,” says Synchro BC President, RaeAnne Rose, “but this year Synchro BC launched what we understand to be the world’s first ever competitive category for mixed ability synchronized swimming. It’s a huge ‘made in BC’ step forward to create inclusive opportunities in our sport.”

Athletes can compete in a mixed ability team or duet and attend all of Synchro BC’s competitions in the province. Each athlete competes in their respective age and level appropriate figure events and then enters the duet or team event in the age category of the average age of the athletes. Judges use the standard marking scale. At least one athlete on the team must be registered as an adaptive athlete.

Melinda Markser, who is a long time adaptive coach and sits on Synchro BC’s advisory committee for adaptive synchro, believes that this move by Synchro BC is unique. “In each sport, there are opportunities for people of all abilities to develop their sport specific skills but competitions are still segregated. Synchro BC is modeling the meaning of inclusion. Imagine if we had mixed ability categories in other team sports and in higher levels of competition. That would truly be building a global inclusive sport environment."

The BC Aquasonics team, coached by Erin Williams (Surrey), includes Izabella Vasicek, Avery Hong, Stephanie Papillo, and Sara Mihailoff of Coquitlam, and Kaytlin Reynolds of Surrey.

Leah Papillo, mother of team member, Stephanie Papillo, explains the value of the mixed ability team. “The experience of watching my 14-year-old daughter participate in a sport she is passionate about, have a meaningful role on a team with her peers, and being valued as an athlete is more meaningful than anyone can imagine for a mother. My daughter beams with pride and walks with confidence. on a team with her friends is all she has ever wanted – besides the sparkly swimsuits and the medals of course!”

With the introduction of the mixed ability category, Synchro BC has created a better opportunity for adaptive synchro athletes to be included on teams, instead of just individual events. In 2017, Stephanie Papillo was a gold medalist in the solo event at the Espoir National Synchronized Swimming Championships. She says, “It was exhilarating but it is boring practicing by yourself and being alone. I don't like being alone.” Now on a team, Stephanie says, “My team treats me like a normal person. It's easier to remember my counts because my team helps me. My teammates make me laugh and I make them laugh too. My team gets to swim twice and I get to swim twice now too - a solo routine and a team." This spring, the team will compete at the Mabel Moran Synchronized Swimming Championships (Lower Mainland Regionals) in Richmond (April 13-15, 2018) and the Jean Peters Provincial Championships in Victoria (May 11 – 13, 2018).

Synchro BC

The British Columbia Amateur Synchronized Swimming Association (Synchro BC) governs the sport of Synchronized Swimming in our province, providing opportunities for athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers. Our programs include a wide range of participation, recreational, and competitive levels for participants of all ages, genders, and skill levels. Synchronized swimming has been an organized sport in BC since 1952 and Synchro BC was registered as a not-for-profit organization in 1980. Synchro BC is hosting the 2018 Synchro Canada Open and Canadian Espoir Synchronized Swimming Championships May 29 to June 2, 2018 at the Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex in Surrey, British Columbia. One of ten stops on the FINA Artistic Swimming World Series, the Synchro Canada Open will host the some of the top synchronized swimmers from around the world.

Partners and Sponsors

Canadian Sport Institute | City of Surrey | Hosting BC | Pacific Sport | Province of British Columbia | Sport BC | Synchro Canada | True Sport | viaSport

For Information

Jennifer Keith, Interim Executive Director
Synchro BC
2002C – 3713 Kensington Ave, Burnaby, V5B 0A7
Email: T: 604-333-3642