Synchronized Swimming Rules and Judging

All you want to know about synchronized swimming

Synchronised Swimming - 16th FINA World Championships: Day Eight
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Synchronized Swimming is governed internationally by FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation). They also govern water polo, diving, swimming, and masters swimming. The detailed synchronized swimming rules for all aspects of the competition are available through the FINA website.

The Competition

Swimmers and teams must qualify for the Olympic competition at other, earlier competitions. Once at the Olympic games, there are two events contested in synchronized swimming, team and duet.

Within each of those events are two routines, a technical and a free routine. The same swimmers might perform in both team and duet events.

Team Event

  • eight swimmers on a team
  • one alternate swimmer
  • Technical Routine
    • 2:50 time limit ( + or -15 seconds)
    • Perform a set routine of specific moves in a specific order
  • Free Routine
    • 4:00 time limit ( + or -15 seconds)
    • Perform a self-choreographed routine with no specific requirements

Duet Event

  • two swimmers
  • one alternate swimmer
  • Technical Routine
    • 2:20 time limit ( + or -15 seconds)
    • Perform a set routine of specific moves in a specific order
  • Free Routine
    • 3:30 time limit ( + or -15 seconds)
    • Perform a self-choreographed routine with no specific requirements

Scoring and Judges

There are many judges and officials working during a synchronized swimming competition. There are two 5-member panels of judges, with one panel scoring technical merit and the other scoring artistic impression and capabilities.

The judges award points on a scale of 0.0-10.0 (in tenths). The judges watch for the difficulty of each movement, how well the routine is executed and synchronized, and how easy the swimmers make it look (easier looking but actually very hard is better!).

Besides the two 5-judge panels, there is a head referee, clerical staff to record scores, and backup judges.

There is even an official sound center manager to make sure the music is right.

The Olympic medals are awarded based on total points earned by the swimmers. The scores for each routine are totaled, and the highest score wins gold, second wins silver, and third win bronze. There could be ties in scoring, in which case both earn that medal.