Former synchronised swimmers start Beckenham business with Olympic passion
PUBLISHED: 11:40 09 August 2012 | UPDATED: 11:53 09 August 2012
To compete at the highest level of an Olympic sport means sacrificing almost everything to focus on little else other than competing at major championships.
Leaving behind a career as a “someone” to step into a world of anonymity is a regular struggle for some athletes, and is one of the reasons former British synchronised swimmers Katie Fried and Adele Carlsen set up Aquabatix.
Based in Beckenham, the company provides entertaining displays in pools, ponds and lakes, allowing retired athletes as well as up-and-coming girls to show off their skills in front of audiences of all sizes.
But whether it is performing in front of William and Kate, alongside rock stars Kings of Leon or in front of four women for a 40th birthday, the performers are capable of amazing feats of strength and grace.
Director Katie, 37, says the idea for the company, started in 2006, stems from the lack of well managed events she experienced while still competing.
She said: “Adele and I both competed for Great Britain and I started synchronised swimming at the age of nine.
“We always had the odd request to do swim events and underwater shoots, but they were never really well managed or organised.
“The girls we have are the best that are not in the Great British team, either because they have left of their own accord or retired from competitive sport.”
Having left the sport at the age of 24 to pursue a career in event management, Katie has a keen knowledge of every aspect of the business.
Partner Adele, 36, is currently the Team GB manager for the synchronised swimming squad and will be championing the girls in London this week.
Their combination of skills has proved timely as their act, Aquabatique, reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent in May – proving the nation has a thirst for their stunning displays.
Beth Smith, 22, is on the books at Aquabatix after retiring at just 19 to focus on her studies and was part of the group that made the final.
She said: “This has allowed me to carry on with the sport and perform in front of people like Simon Cowell - which was surreal.
“The best thing about that was no one had done it before and we didn’t know how people would react to what we did.
“It has generated a lot of interest and we have a lot of events in the pipeline.”
Having retired early after injuring her back at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, Katie admits that recently sitting in the crowd at the Olympics sparked a slight yearning for her former career.
She said: “Going to the Olympics made me want to be involved with the team like Adele is. But Aquabatix has given me the side of it I really love.
“If I went back into a pool now at Olympic standard I wouldn’t stand a chance.
“It used to be about strength and control so it was a lot slower, but now it’s about speed.”
For some the sport can become too much, taking a strain on home life or on the purse strings – though funding for the minority sport has improved in the build-up to the London Games.
“We set up the company to give the girls a route after they leave the competitive side of the sport,” said Katie.
“When we stop it can be a massive shift. To work so hard and then not have the opportunity to do it anymore can be difficult.”
The synchronised swimming community can be a small one and with careers often cruelly cut short, the two women are providing many girls with a link to the sport they still love.