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Rules of the Olympic games: Artistic (Synchronized) Swimming

Artistic Swimming is the figure skating of the Summer Olympics. Here's how it works.

It's a swimming competition not about speed but about artistry, control, balance and the ability to hold your breath underwater for a long time. Artistic swimming is the figure skating of the Summer Olympics.

Better known to most people as synchronized swimming, there are two competitions: duets and teams. Only women compete in artistic swimming.

Each competition has two heats which are performed to music. One is a technical routine that lasts no more than 2 minutes, 50 seconds and has a set of five required movements. The other is a free routine that lasts three to four minutes.

The competitions are scored by judges, with the scoring focused on synchronization, difficulty, technique, choreography, musical interpretation and presentation.

Artistry is a big part of the competition, but strength, power and endurance are also key factors. Competitors can spend 30 seconds holding their breaths while swimming upside down with only their legs above the water. They hold their position in the water using a technique called sculling. Also, when they are upright and using an eggbeater kick, they can rise to waist-high above the water.

Beyond the physical part, synchronized swimming is known for bright, shiny swimsuits and the competitors' waterproof makeup. In addition, swimmers use gelatine, a substance used in food products like jelly, to harden their hair so it does not fall out of place during the competition.