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SYNCHRO

Wed, August 11, 2004
High water pressure
Calgary's synchro swimming duo understands expectations of podium finish
By CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

History is on their side and Canada's synchronized swimmers might need every bit of it this time.

When Canada's water ballerinas take to the Olympic Aquatic Centre pool in Athens starting Aug. 23, the two Calgarians on the eight-woman team -- Erin Chan and Shayna Nackoney -- know full-well the pressure on their shoulders.

Canadians haven't come home without a medal since synchro became an Olympic sport in 1984.

But this year, the Canucks head into the Olympics ranked just fifth in the world.

They know even the smallest flaw in their routine will knock them off the podium in the blink of an eye.

"As we're sitting right now, we're in fifth. At the pre-Olympic qualifier, we really didn't do as well as we wanted to, so the expectation is a podium performance," said Chan, 24, a Bishop Carroll high school graduate, who won an Olympic bronze medal with the Canadian team in 2000.

"We really need to swim as best as we can, so that means to swim as perfectly on time as we can with each other. That's what we're looking for and whatever result comes from that will come from that.

"But without a doubt, it's going to be a very, very tough competition for us.

"It will be very trying but (a medal) is possible."

Being in the the ancient city won't be much of a trial for Chan, though.

It's her third trip to Athens, a city she dearly loves.

"Athens is really exciting just because I studied it. I studied ancient Greek history, so to see that stuff and be in that city is really exciting for me," she said, adding it'll be the perfect place to end her career.

"I have full plans to retire on August 27."

After that, Chan plans on pursuing a career in fashion design, which, unfortunately, won't allow her to leave Toronto and move back to her beloved Calgary.

"I don't think there's much of a fashion future for me there but I do see myself moving back to Calgary some time in the future," said Chan, who has been based in Hogtown with the national team for the past seven years.

Chan and Nackoney are great friends but Nackoney admits all the time the team spends together -- nine hours a day, six days a week -- can be tiring.

"We're a great team, we get along really well. We all want the same thing, so we're pretty similar but spending all the time we do together can get to be a bit much," said the 22-year-old, who will be making her Olympic debut.

"I live alone here and I have a kitty and try to have somewhat of my own life but we're all good friends and we're going to keep in touch after the Olympics."

Like figure skating, synchronized swimming has a panel of judges who determine the outcome. And with any subjective call by an official, the judges can have a huge impact on who reaches the podium.

But Nackoney said the team isn't concerned about something out of its control.

"The judging is really subjective. That's why we're focusing on our performance. You can't control the judges, you can only control your performance and do the best you can that way," she said.

While the Olympics is by far the biggest amateur sporting showcase in the world, it's really just another event.

"It's just like worlds, it's just like every other competition we compete in: The same teams, the same judges, really nothing changes. It's just the whole excitement and media coverage the Olympics brings," said Nackoney, who also graduated from Bishop Carroll and will return to school in the fall to study public relations.

And she's more than happy with all the attention her sport and all the amateur sports have received before the Olympics.

No doubt Nackoney, Chan and the rest of the team can return the favour by bringing home a medal.

- - -

SHAYNA NACKONEY

Event -- synchronized swimming

Age -- 22

Occupation -- Full-time athlete

Club -- Calgary Aquabelles (now trains in Toronto)

Career Highlights -- Silver at the 2003 Pan-Am Games (team), 2003 Canadian team championship, gold at the 2001 Roma Open (team), bronze at the 2001 world championship.

- - -

ERIN CHAN

Event -- synchronized swimming

Age -- 24

Occupation -- Full-time athlete

Club -- Calgary Aquabelles (now trains in Toronto)

Career highlights -- Bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Games (team), silver at the 2003 Pan-Am Games, gold at the 2003 German and Japan Opens (team), bronze at the 2002 world championships (team).






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