Synchronized swimming is a pretty challenging sport. It is believed that even in ancient times there was some sort of performance that looked just like modern synchronized swimming. And still the birth of the synchronized swimming is considered to be 1920 when women team performed in Canada. Their program at the time was based on elements of lifesaving technique and it was more demonstration sport back then. But soon this "ornamental swimming" as it was called, came into the United States of America and became very popular.
Different competitions in synchronized swimming started to appear. That made synchronized swimming very popular sport all over the globe. But during the development of synchronized swimming, the sports' rules have changed significantly. And today they are totally different from that of their inception.
Modern synchronized swimming programs consist of so-called free and technical routine. Although they might seem pretty similar for the audience at first, free routine and technical routine are different.
The main difference of course is that technical routine contains a predefined set of elements. And for all these movements there are some pretty rigid requirements. So, the only thing that swimmers can choose on their own is the music they perform with. And all these rigid requirements make scoring and judgment of technical routine pretty easy.
Unlike the technical routine, the free routine doesn't have such rigid requirements for the elements it consists of. The program of the free routine can be build more freely but it is much better when it contains a complex set of elements. And many swimmers include such elements as jumps although they are pretty complex. The judgment of the free routine is much harder than judgment of technical routine because not only technique of performed elements has to be judged. There is such thing as "Artistic Impressions" and in all competitions there is a special team of judges that check for the creativity of the choreography that team shows during the performance.
The other difference between free routine and technical routine is that team performance does not contain a technical routine. Only duets have technical routines in their programs.
The actual performance in synchronized swimming is not that long and it lasts for 4 minutes for duets and for 5 minutes for teams of swimmers. In some competitions there are also solo performances and they last for only 3.5 minutes. The variation of this time frame for each performance is only plus/minus 15 seconds. Each program can also include deck work that lasts no longer than for 20 seconds (in some competitions it is even shorter - only 10 seconds). That part of the program is not considered by the judge's team - the main goal of it is to give judges and audience a slight impression of the whole program.
The scoring in synchronized swimming is pretty similar to that in figure skating. There are certain rules for giving swimmers point for technique and artistic impression. All these points are summarized with special co-efficient to get the final result.