It might look effortless as they glide through the water in perfect harmony, but
Olympians Anastasia Gloushkov, 26, and Inna Yoffe, 23, admit that synchronized
swimming is a tough sport.
“Synchronized swimming looks glamorous, but
there are many hours of stress, sweat and worrying behind it,” admits Gloushkov,
who with her partner Yoffe has just qualified for her third Olympic Games in the
“In a sports career, I think every athlete feels some point of
breakdown – a crossroads when he or she must decide whether to go on and reach
new goals – and I’ve had those points, more than once,” Gloushkov
Now those doubts are behind her, however, after she and Yoffe,
coached by Gloushkov’s mother, Tatiana Tsym, made the cut for the Israeli
Olympic delegation at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai in
They will represent Israel at the 2012 Olympics in
“The feeling you get after an achievement is so great and it
matures you,” says Yoffe. “You just want to do better next
Gloushkov and Yoffe both have roots in Russia. Gloushkov is the
child of two accomplished Moscow swimmers. When she was six, her parents got a
job teaching at a water sports club in Saloniki, Greece, and three years later
moved to Jerusalem. Their young daughter was already spending lots of time in
“What interested me more than swimming was the dancing and the
makeup – the things that are attractive to a girl,” says Gloushkov.
has stuck with me until now.”
Yoffe moved to Israel from St. Petersburg
when she was four.
“I started swimming at age nine through a school
program, and that is how I met Tatiana [Tsym],” says Yoffe, who is a lifeguard
at the Jerusalem Ramada Hotel and lives in the capital with her
When Yoffe was old enough to compete at the senior level, Tsym
paired her with her own daughter. The two had similar skills and physiques,
particularly their legs, which are a central focal point of synchronized
Tsym coached them for the 2003 world championship in
Barcelona that provided their ticket to the Athens Olympics in
Afterward they parted ways for a time but were back together for
the Beijing Games in 2008 and have remained a duo.
and her fiancé, who works in hi-tech, are raising his seven-yearold son in
Moshav Shoresh. She is studying toward a bachelor’s in social sciences and human
resources at Achva College of Ben- Gurion University of the Negev, and dreams of
a career out of the water.
“After I finish my third Olympics, my wish is
to take all this experience from sports and do something useful with it,” she
says. “Perhaps I could be some sort of adviser in how to deal with stress and
set goals and achieve them.”
Yoffe also sees London as her final hurrah
as a competitive swimmer.
“I want to start university and study biology,
so it would be hard to continue,” she says.
Being a synchronized swimmer
in Israel is a challenge in itself. Their typical training day at a Jerusalem
neighborhood community center encompasses 90 minutes in the gym and three hours
in the pool. It was tough finding a place willing to give them exclusive use of
the pool on a regular basis, and this pool isn’t even regulation
“In Russia and Spain and the US, [synchronized swimmers] get all
the hours in the pool they need, while we only have a half-Olympic pool for a
certain amount of time,” says Yoffe.
Israel has a few full-size pools,
but given a chronic water shortage, most are smaller.
“Being an athlete
in a kind of sport that is really about water, in a country where we have a
problem with water, is pretty funny,” adds Gloushkov. “When I see that I
represent Israel in this specific sport, it makes me proud of what I put into
it, and I am thankful for the Olympic Committee seeing the potential
She doesn’t think most soccer-addicted Israelis know what to make
of synchronized swimming.
“To a non-professional eye, it’s difficult to
understand the difference between opponents. It’s a beautiful sport to watch,
but it’s less interesting than a match of tennis or football, where you can
really understand who is against whom. Here you are looking at routines and
scores, and it’s much more like ballet than athletics.”
both Gloushkov and Yoffe say they love their country and are proud to represent
it through their chosen sport.
“We have a chance to show a nicer part of
Israel – more cultural, happier, more cheerful,” says Gloushkov. “When the world
sees all the problems Israel has, I can show it from a different point of view,
and that makes me feel like an ambassador of goodwill.”
for the 2012 London Games, Yoffe and Gloushkov aim to have a bit of a breather
for a few months.
Yoffe will concentrate on matriculation exams so she
can enter college after the Olympics. Gloushkov will plan her wedding, scheduled
“We are giving our muscles some rest,” says Gloushkov, but
there’s certainly no possibility of atrophy. The lighter schedule includes
several European competitions and an international qualifying