Commonwealth Games 2002
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Swimming Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
The joking's over
Claire Carver-Dias in action with pairs partner Fanny Letourneau
Carver-Dias is one of the Games' runaway favourites
To many, synchronised swimming remains the joke sport of every major games, a chance to look silly with a nose peg and unleash a few kicks while holding your breath under the water.

Competitors will agree that they would prefer not to have to hold a smile the whole way through a routine, have their hair slick back and a nose clip added into the equation for good measure.

But criticise it in front of the pool's likeliest gold medallist aside from Ian Thorpe and you will get a different outlook on the sport.

Claire Carver-Dias is on course for gold in both the solo and the duet, with partner Fanny Letourneau, and even her closest rivals have already conceded defeat.

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I often say I'm only smiling because I've been under the water for so long it's such a relief to come up and get a breath
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Claire Carver-Dias

But the 25-year-old Canadian, whose obsession for the sport entails eight hours training a day, is always quick to hit out at suggestions that "synchro" is a joke.

She told BBC Sport Online: "When you really think about it, every sport is strange. Why's it any different producing routines under and above water than ice skating or hitting a ball into a net.

"Yeah, we don't like to wear nose plugs but we have to otherwise the water goes up our noses.

"Likewise, the stuff we have to put in our hair to keep it out of the way is not great, but you can't look a mess.

"And finally sometimes you are exhausted and don't feel like smiling. But we do it and it's all part of the sport."

Needless to say, Carver-Dias does not see the funny side of the sport.

Originally a speed swimmer, she was lured to "the other side of the pool" during a training session by the performers' "glamorous looks and pretty routines".

Since making the transition 14 years ago, one of Canada's gold medal certainties has seen a different side.

Carver-Dias factfile
DOB: 19.06.1977
Games event: Solo, duet synchronised swimming
Career highlights: Olympic bronze - 2000, World Championship bronze - 2001
Duet partner: Fanny Letourneau

"I was captured by the look of it originally," she said. "But now it's about the competition and perfecting the routines."

She has four routines to perfect in time for Manchester - two technical and two free - in a sport she describes as "summer's answer to figure skating".

And, when she arrives in England all eyes will be on her to bring back double gold.

"I'd be disappointed if I didn't pull it off," she revealed, "but the expectation doubled with Canada's record in the sport (the country have won all eight synchro golds in Games history) doesn't make me feel under pressure. It makes me feel excited."

Fast routines are expected to be on the cards, to highlight her quick and powerful style.

Whatever the critics say, the smile will remain.

"I often say I'm only smiling because I've been under the water for so long it's such a relief to come up and get a breath," she concluded.

One expects that grin will continue all the way to the podium.

BBC Sport's Mike Bushell
"It's down to what happens under the surface"
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05 Jun 02 | Swimming
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