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It's all about the wonder of synchronised swimmers

By Billy Weir

Published 18/06/2015

Splash down: Hands up who would rather be doing a bit of synchronised
swimming than clearing out a shed of a Saturday
Splash down: Hands up who would rather be doing a bit of synchronised swimming than clearing out a shed of a Saturday

There are times in life when you are genuinely shocked and surprised and here comes some words all in a row that I never thought I would utter - I love synchronised swimming.

Oh, I know there are those cynical souls amongst you thinking 'oh aye, here we go, a few cheap laughs about women with clothes pegs on their noses and more make-up on than a granny on a hen-do' but for sheer TV entertainment it is hard to beat.

In fairness my decision to spend Saturday afternoon watching the event at the inaugural European Games - a kind of sports day for slightly older children - was inspired not by water-based balletic beauty but by not cleaning out the garden shed, but I digress.

BT Sport, with nothing else to show, have pounced on the European Games like a synchronised swimmer on a passing sequins seller, and there is no shortage of stuff and nonsense on show.

There's wrestling of the non Big Daddy type, which includes some brilliant terms as the judge being called the 'master of the mat' who has to deal with queries from a coach with a red or blue foam 'challenge brick' being thrown on in the middle of the skirmish.

It isn't the most interesting of sports, I've seen better fights between women at W.I. jumble sales and it's the same in karate, where not even Austria's Betty Plank could lift the boredom while the taekwondo seems to be two stripped-down Ninja Turtles in pyjamas trying to kick each other and failing.

There's kayaking too, with the 200 metres sprint over in the blink of an eye, meaning you can train for years and your event is over in less than 47 seconds, but join me now, metaphorically, as I don my mascara, squeeze into a snazzy little number and slide majestically into the shimmering pool like a machine-gunned walrus for the synchronised swimming.

First up in the team event was the Netherlands as Elvis boomed across Baku. I mean they were playing his music, he wasn't making a very surprising comeback special, although it was not so much Netherlands as nether regions as the swimmers spent most of their time upside down like a wounded windmill.

A Little Less Conversation was not the mantra of our intrepid commentating duo, Roger Tames and the wonderfully named, Eloise Cupido, who may be made up.

For those footie fans of a certain age, the mention of Mr Tames will make you sit up and take notice, as he was one of the provincial commentators banished to a footballing outpost and destined to the third match on the Big Match once Brian Moore and Martin Tyler had been accommodated.

Roger's patch was Tyne-Tees, so covering the likes of Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough were just the preparation anyone needs to cover the cut and thrust of the pool prancers.

"This routine was set to Elvis, the king of rock and roll," pointed out Eloise, just in case you thought it was another Elvis.

"The King was just a young lad growing up when synchronised swimming first entered the Olympic programme in the early Fifties," added Roger as things took a dive into the surreal.

Ukraine were next to mince to the pool - and they all do, apart from Russia who marched on like they own the place which is probably true - and the apt strains of 'this is the end, hold your breath and count to 10' filled the air, as Adele's Skyfall saw them on their way.

"James Bond theme or not, they can't expect the gold medal to come from Russia with love, that's for certain," said Roger entering choppy diplomatic waters, but then again he's covered Newcastle v Sunderland.

Next up were France, dusting off a hit from a popular beat combo and Eloise concluded that they were 'imploring the judge not to stop them as right now they are having a good time with Queen reincarnated in the pool' but I couldn't shake the image of Brian May floating in the pool like a drowned poodle.

Spain gave us a bit more Elvis, although Blue Suede Shoes are going to be ruined by a pool, and the more you looked at these poor waifs being forced to swim for our pleasure you wondered were they caught in a trap and couldn't walk out, but that's probably just my suspicious mind…

Greece came and went with some classical music, no make-up and not a sequin in sight as times are hard, while Italy threw caution to the wind in leopardskin and jungle rhythms, with Eloise pondering would they 'roar or growl' at the scores but 'with a score like that they've certainly let their inner animal out.' Thankfully it wasn't a crocodile.

Roger then informed us that the Belarus' team was 'like a club side, all members of the prosaically-named Trade Unions Club, which sounds like somewhere you might go on a Friday night,' as he clearly longed for a return to Gateshead.

Finally, on came the Russians and some angry classical music, with Eloise commenting that it was 'a score that could almost fit a Star Wars movie making their performance as out of this world as you can get' and surprise, surprise, they won.

Only they didn't as this was qualifying, with 14 teams vying for 12 places and back came the clean dozen on Tuesday to do exactly the same routine again and guess what, Russia won, or as Eloise concluded, 'they came, they swam, they conquered.'

They were brilliant, as were most of them, I've never met a synchronised swimmer, never mind 10 of them together, but, once they'd dried their hand, I'd shake it because they are fantastic. Yes, it's not a sport, but why let that get in the way of tidying a shed.

Little to roar about in a Windsor bore

Given the precarious nature of things around Windsor Park these days a hearty congratulations to the players of Northern Ireland and Romania for making sure there was no danger of any excitement rocking the place to the ground.

Sky presenter Graham Little was understandably worried, so much so that he was nowhere near the ground for the match on Saturday night.

"The last time Northern Ireland played at Windsor Park the fans celebrated so enthusiastically they are believed to have contributed to the near collapse of the West Stand," he said mischievously, especially that scamp who had decided to dig a massive hole behind it a few days before.

He would have got away with it had it not have been for those pesky structural engineers and while it is no more, there are new stands popping up around the national stadium and we can all rely on the IFA, an organisation full of big holes with no apparent use, keeping us all informed.

With Little in the studio was large Iain Dowie and medium-sized Steve Lomas, two monstrous carbuncles from the house of Windsor past, which was a godsend for parents of small children eager to keep them away from the fire with TV sets across the land erected above mantelpieces quicker than a stand being levelled.

On the pitch not much was happening, commentator Daniel Mann expressing his surprise of the move of a Romanian player to Qatar.

"When you go to Qatar it's got to do with money," said an accusatory Gerry Arconada-Armstrong, who, failed to point out that his move to Glenavon was because he was badly in need of a spade.

Reports of a tanned man being spotted a couple of months ago around Windsor Park with a digging implement remain unconfirmed but the IFA have confirmed that they are looking into it. Not sure if they mean the hole or the incident but, rest assured, we'll get all the facts. Eventually.

So bored was Gerry that he just started churning out pointless clichés as he pondered if he could dig a tunnel to make good his escape, informing us that 'the team that makes the most mistakes could be the one that loses' and 'if you don't take your chances you can always rue them at the end of the day.' Thank you, Confucius.

At the end, no mistakes apiece and some rued missed chances were all we had to show for the evening but on the plus side all the new stands stood tall and a place in France edged ever closer.

Next up though a clash with the Faroe Islands, who are not to be under-estimated. I mean we can't build a stand that lasts more than a few years and they built the pyramids…

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: And so it came to pass that England won the World Cup, unbelievably in Germany, and even more incredulously against Scotland until we all realised it was darts and some pretty epic ones too on Sky last week. The only thing is, will Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis still be wittering on about it in 2064? Probably.

The bad: Sadly the Top 14 Final featuring France’s top two chasers of l’oeuf was something of a letdown as Stade Francais beat Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, but the real star of the show was former Stade player Ollie Phillips who wore a suit that would have had a starving leopard turn on its heels and scarpering off into the distance.

The ugly: But that’s not the worst material just around the corner with a wool-based horror awaiting us all as Gabby Logan (who else) is to present a celebrity sheepdog trialling show called Flockstars later in the year. This includes ‘stars’ such as Lesley Joseph, Tony Blackburn and, cue some awful jokes, Amanda Lamb, in a programme so bad Alan Partridge would have turned it down. Suddenly Splash! seems high brow.

Belfast Telegraph

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