How Not to Get a Penalty in Synchronized Swimming

The best way to avoid a receiving a penalty is to learn why they are given in the first place.

This guide explains penalties as defined by FINA, plus a few more that aren’t listed in their rules but are still used at many unsanctioned meets.

Figures Competition Penalties

The figure competition is meant to test your control and mastery of synchro skills. It’s an event taken so seriously that the athletes and audience are expected to be as quiet as possible during the competition. Referees demand silence and won’t often hesitate to hand out penalties for figure errors like a teacher hands out detention slips for whispering during the test.

To help you get a head start, take note of these penalties in the world of figures. Use your national governing body’s rulebook for more specific details.

FINA applies a two point penalty for:

  1. Stopping intentionally during a figure and asking to start over.
  2. Performing the incorrect figure. This includes errors like completing the incorrect number of spins or rotations or not following the correct description of how the figure is to be performed.
  3. Leaving out a portion of the figure.

FINA rules give you a score of zero for:

  1. Making a second mistake once given a chance to repeat the figure (after already receiving a penalty).
  2. Not performing the figure.

Other penalties (not listed by FINA):

  1. Competing out of order or with the wrong competitor number carries a one point penalty.
  2. Missing a figure after being called results in a score of zero.
  3. Missing the figures event will results in a score of zero for the entire competition if figures are a required event.

Routine Competition Penalties

Routine events, with cheering crowds and bright, sparkly suits, are less restrained than figure competitions. But in the midst of the light-heartedness, referees are still on the lookout for broken rules and nothing kills a great post-swim adrenaline rush like a penalty.

Here is a list of penalties to watch out for in free, technical and combination routines.

FINA applies a two point penalty if:

  1. A swimmer deliberately uses of the bottom of the pool to help or lift another swimmer.
  2. A competitor stops during deckwork and asks to start over.
  3. Lifts, towers or pyramids are formed on deck.
  4. A combination routine that does not have at least two portions with less than three swimmers and at least two portions with 4 to 10 swimmers.

FINA applies a one point penalty when:

  1. Deckwork is longer than 10 seconds.
  2. The routine is longer or shorter than the time limit.
  3. The walk-on is longer than 30 seconds.
  4. Swimmers deliberately use the bottom of the pool.
  5. The routine music fails to play correctly (including the alternate copy).

Technical Routine Competition Penalties

You are more likely to get a penalty in technical competitions than in free routines because they have required elements (which are a lot more like figures than other routine hybrids).

Here is a list of possible penalties for technical routines:

  1. Omitting or skipping an element carries a two point penalty.
  2. If a part of a required element is omitted or something extra is done by all competitors in a routine—whether it’s during a solo, duet or team—there is a one point penalty.
  3. There is a half (0.5) penalty each time one competitor omits or adds something to an element, up to a maximum deduction of two points.
  4. A half (0.5) point penalty is applied each time a team or duet competitor performs choreography that is intentionally unsynchronized or facing a different way from the other competitor(s), not including deckwork, pattern changes or elements that require it.

Knowing Is Half the Battle

No one likes to talk about penalties—even the thought of getting one can be scary. But the more you know and understand the rules, the better you will be able to avoid them.

So, pay attention and stay aware of the penalties to ensure you get all the points you deserve!

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