Water ballet makes waves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 January, 1999, 12:00am

Mandy Wong Man-ting describes herself as an 'underwater gymnast'.

Wong kept her head and shoulders above the pool surface, as she raised her arms gracefully into the air.

After this successful manoeuvre, she raised a leg slowly into the air and lay on her back on the surface of the water.

Her body remained steady and horizontal and she appeared to be lying on floats.

'It looks easy but it's quite hard for me to perform the figures, leaps and spins, especially with little opportunity to breathe,' Wong, a member of the SAR national squad, said.

Not many Hong Kong people try synchronised swimming because participants have to sacrifice a lot of time and train hard to get into top physical condition.

Wong, 21, who has been involved in the sport for several years, said it gave her a 'different satisfaction'.

'Besides, I have studied dancing. When you dance on the floor, you just move your body along to the rhythm of the music.

'It's not very difficult to do that. But, synchronised swimming is more than musical interpretation. It's a combination of strength and agility, grace and beauty, as well as dramatic flair,' she said.

Wong originally tried competitive swimming but was encouraged to switch to its 'ballet version'. Her coach noticed she had a good figure and a flair for choreography and musical expression.

'Synchronised swimming has helped develop my character. It has also tested my artistic interpretation and determination and boosted my strength,' she said.

'You may do a leap or spin and fail 100 times. If you want a steady performance, you need to devote much more time to training and follow your coach's guidance in perfecting each manoeuvre.' Wong said the most difficult part for swimmers was spending a few minutes under water without breathing, while suspending their arms and legs above the pool surface.

'Floating on water is easy. But that's not the case when it comes to performing artistic movements.' She said a nasal clip was essential to prevent water from entering the nasal cavity during each upside-down routine.

'We need to wear se quinned suits and our smiling faces may de ceive the audience into believing that the per formance is easy. It doesn't look good if the swimmers looked like they were in pain,' Wong said.

Kit Chan Kit-ching, chief coach of the Hong Kong national squad, said very few local people were familiar with the sport because of its low profile.

'We lack facilities and financial support. Some who are enthusiastic at the beginning give up the sport finally because they can't stand the tough training regimen,' she said.

She said synchronised swimming should be recommended to young people because it was good for their health and added a touch of elegance to their lives.