Synchronizing Mind and Body
Wellness on Grinnell’s campus comes in as many forms as its students have passions, and they don’t have to be strictly athletic passions.
Synchronized swimming has been a fixture in Tea Cakarmis ’17’s life since her childhood, and it wasn’t something she could leave behind her when she came to Grinnell. After arriving on campus, she formed the Grinnell Synchronized Swimming Club to keep synchro in her life and make it possible for other students — regardless of skill level, body type, or experience — to fall in love with it as she has.
Bringing Synchro to Grinnell
I envisioned the Grinnell Synchronized Swimming Club as a community, one that encourages both artistic expression and the development of athletic abilities.
At the age of 13, I was selected as a swimmer of the Serbian National Synchronized Swimming Team. I was both petrified and extremely honored. The five years I spent on the team before coming to Grinnell have been the most meaningful of my life. My teammates became my sisters as we shared countless hours of training, frustrations at being away from home, and pride in our accomplishments.
While competing internationally, we traveled together from Jerusalem to Geneva, we made countless friends and memories, and we spread our love for a unique sport that unifies ballet, gymnastics, swimming, and theatre. We performed routines requiring physical abilities equal to those of any other professional athletes — endurance, core strength, and flexibility. And we executed our routines gracefully, in sync, and while smiling — even underwater, we smiled. Although we were all too aware of the fact that our sport enjoyed little recognition in our country, we knew the value of what we were doing; we were our country’s ambassadors, painting the accurate picture of our people and our culture through our talent.
Through it all, the competitions and the pressure, synchro always remained my safe space. And it’s because it is such a beautiful mixture of all different athletic and artistic disciplines that it allows the performer to communicate any type of emotion or state of mind. It gives the performer an ability to enact their own reality or create a completely new one in the water. Because it is so subjective and open to interpretation, I believe that it is enhanced by the diversity of its performers.
Synchronized swimming is traditionally viewed as a sport that strictly prescribes the body type of the performer and thus excludes a lot of possible perspectives on the discipline. Although this remains somewhat true even today, the sport in general is becoming more accepting. I formed the Grinnell Synchro Club in that spirit. I wanted all of my club members to establish their own unique approaches to synchro.
Forming the Grinnell Synchro Club offered me yet another opportunity to be an ambassador, to represent the sport I love and my home country. It is a club that, to my surprise and excitement, has been growing during the past year. During my year abroad it will be led by two inspirational swimmers — Zala Tomasic ’18 and Tess Fisher ’18 — and it will be accepting all new members, with any level of experience.
Author Teodora Cakarmis ’17 is a French and political science double major from Belgrade, Serbia; Tess Fisher ’18 is an undeclared major from Oak Park, Ill.; and Zala Tomasic ’18 is an undeclared major from Skofja Loka, Slovenia.