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Abel part of US synchronized swim team placing fifth in Olympics

Brooke Abel didn’t leave the 2008 Olympics with a medal, but the Fallbrook resident was part of the United States synchronized swimming team which finished fifth.

“We were happy because we had our best swim in both of our routines,” Abel said. “That’s actually hard to do in competition.”

The United States tied for fifth with Japan in the overall medal points while tying Canada for fifth in the August 22 team technical routine and earning an unshared fifth-place showing in the August 23 freestyle routine.

The United States missed the bronze medal by exactly two points while falling approximately one-third of a point short of Canada’s fourth-place overall score. “It was kind of a close race,” Abel said.

Abel was one of 27 synchronized swimmers who were invited to Ohio State University in December 2006 to try out for 12 berths at the FINA World Championship in March 2007. (FINA is the international governing body of four different water sports: swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and water polo.)

Those 12 swimmers were reduced to nine, including Abel, for the 2007 Pan-American Games and the 2008 Olympic Games. Abel learned in April 2007 that she would be on the 2008 Olympic team.

“Everything that I thought it was going to be just happened,” Abel said of participating in the Olympics. “It was exactly how I pictured it.”

In April 2008 the team went to China for sightseeing and Chinese cuisine. That allowed the athletes to focus on competition after they arrived in China for the Olympics. The US synchronized swim team left for China on August 4, marching in the August 8 opening ceremonies before their competition two weeks later.

“You never feel so American,” Abel said. “You have so much camaraderie.”

She noted that all of the American athletes at the Olympic Village had the same goal. “That was really exciting to be around so many other people that had the same feeling as you,” she said.

She was also pleased to hear the chants of “USA” during the opening ceremonies at the 91,000-seat stadium after walking through the tunnel and onto the field. “That was one of my favorite parts,” she said.

The April trip also allowed the US athletes to view the National Aquatic Center where the Olympic competition was held. “It was kind of just like a basic pool,” Abel said.

The team had practiced its routines by the Olympic competition. “We were so prepared by that time,” Abel said. “I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be.”

Judging in synchronized swimming is subjective, and each routine has two sets of judges. The team technical event has a set of judges to score execution and a group of judges who score overall impression. The freestyle routine has judges who evaluate technical merit and judges who assess artistic impression.

The United States scored 47.584 on the team technical routine and 47.750 on the freestyle routine for a total score of 95.334. “I really feel like I did the best I could,” Abel said. “The results were the results.”

The Russian Federation scored a perfect 50.000 on the freestyle routine and took the gold medal with 99.500 points. Spain earned 98.251 points to take the silver medal while China secured a bronze medal with 97.334 points. Canada’s 95.668 points were worth fourth place while the United States and Japan each totaled 95.334 points.

Abel was first selected to the Junior National Team in 2003, when she was 15. In November 2004 she was selected to the US National Team, becoming the youngest member of the National Team at the time.

At one time Abel was on both the US National Team and the Junior National team, but in 2006 a schedule conflict led to US Synchronized Swimming dropping her from the Junior National Team so that she could focus on US National Team activities.

The Abel family was living in Northridge when she began her synchronized swimming career. Her family came across a sign-up sheet for a synchronized swimming program at a local park pool in Northridge, and Abel began her synchronized swimming career with the park program in 1998. In 1999 she joined the Riverside Aquettes, eventually moving up to the club’s top team.

Abel was born in a Van Nuys hospital, although the family lived in Northridge at the time and remained in Northridge until moving to Fallbrook in November 2004. Ironically, the Abel family does not have a swimming pool at their Fallbrook home. Abel was homeschooled through the Gorman Learning Center and graduated from high school in May 2006.

Abel is leaning against trying out for a berth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. “Synchronized swimming really takes up your whole entire life,” she said of the daily practice totals of eight to ten hours. “It’s definitely a commitment and it’s hard to do it for four years.”

Abel will likely decide her synchronized swimming future sometime next year, and she is currently undecided about participating in the FINA World Trophy Cup this December in Spain.

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