Nose clips, Knox jello, handmade suits and more: Unique sport takes over Tonawanda


TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — About 1,200 athletes are in WNY, for the largest synchronized swimming competition in the world. U.S. Junior Olympics started Saturday, June 29, and runs through Saturday, July 6 at the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center.

The Tonawanda Aquettes are hosting the major event. Two swimmers on the team let News 4 follow along through their day, competing in the 18-19 duet competition.

Claire Ermer and Brenna O’Brocta start by practicing on land. They count to eight over and over again, throughout the music, in order to stay synchronized. They’ve been working on their routine for nearly a year.

“We practice all the time,” Ermer said. “Three hours every day.”

The moment their number is called, is the moment when all the hard work becomes worth it. The two were placed specifically together two years ago.

“She’s like my sister,” O’Brocta said about Ermer. “I see her probably more than I see my own sister.”

And they’re synchronized in the water, and out.

“I feel like we have a connection,” she said.

They end their routine happy with their score. The two will compete again tomorrow, which is when they’ll find out if they make finals.

O’Brocta and Ermer are two of more than 1,200 swimmers at U.S. Junior Olympics. It’s the largest event or its kind, in the world.

“My friends are here, all my teammates, my family,” O’Brocta said. “It’s an amazing experience. and to see the pool you practice in every single day transform into something huge like this, and have these people from all across the country here, it’s just surreal… it’s just amazing.”

A lot goes on behind the scene to prepare the swimmers for the water. To keep their hair up, they use Knox Jello.

“We mix it with hot water, and we put it into our hair so it doesn’t fall out during our swim,” Ermer said. “It takes a very long time to get out… hot water, long showers, everything like that.”

They have nose clips to help them hold their breath. And there’s an underwater speaker in the pool. Sometimes it’s easier to hear under the water, than above, with all the cheers from the crowd.

The suits they wear are handmade, and so are their headpieces to match.

“(We use) alot of bobby pins,” O’Brocta said.

And once they hit the water, they exert almost every part of their bodies, for the next three-or-so minutes.

“You’re tired because you weren’t breathing half the time,” O’Brocta said. “It’s just exhausting. “It’s like you want to sleep for a week… that’s how I feel anyways.”

It’s a lot, but the swimmers will tell you, it’s all worth it.

“I love it,” O’Brocta said.

O’Brocta has two more years on the Aquettes, but Ermer is graduating this year. She’s off to swim in college. But for now, she’s relishing in the moment. It’s taken her 10 years of hard work to put her at this meet, next to her best friend and partner, at home, in Tonawanda.

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