Cork solicitor takes plunge as first male ‘water ballerina’

HE’S been crowned amateur world elephant polo champion, he was Ireland’s first-ever competitor at the sumo world wrestling championships in Osaka, and he holds the world record for the three-legged marathon. But adrenalin junkie Colin Carroll is about to make his biggest-ever splash.

The Cork-based solicitor has pulled on his Speedos to break into the fiercely competitive – and almost exclusively female – world of international synchronised swimming.

The self-styled “sports visionary” has helped set up Synchro Ireland – the country’s first synchronised swimming club.

And he has vowed to use his legal expertise to overcome any barriers that may prevent him from becoming the first man to compete for his country in the sport at both European and international level.

“For the first time, this is an event that’s not about me. This is about the team. And my teammates make this look so easy. They should call this formation drowning,” Colin said.

Coached by Anna O’Connor, Colin is training up to three hours a night, three nights a week with his teammates Gillian Fenton, Maura O’Connell, Joanne O’Connor, Fiadhnat O’Meara and Paula Magnier. They are targeting the world synchronised swimming championships in Spain in September. But once that’s out of the way, they hope to represent Ireland in the sport at the London Olympics in 2012.

Synchronised swimming is a hybrid form of swimming, dance and figure skating, where swimmers perform a synchronised routine of elaborate moves in the water, to music.

Often called water ballet, the sport requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside-down underwater. Colin and his team perform their routine to traditional Irish music.

“It’s the ultimate Riverdance. Swimming is horizontal. But synchronised swimming is three-dimensional – it’s horizontal, vertical and sideways, with underwater lifts and everything,” Colin said.

Coach O’Connor, who trained as a synchronised swimming coach more than 20 years ago, said he has taken to it like the proverbial duck to water.

“It’s not that easy for men because women float much better in water, so it is a little bit harder for him. But he is excellent. He has great fitness and technique,” she said.

And shaving his legs for competition would be a matter entirely for himself, she added.

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