She was named Olympic Coach of the Year four times in a row by U.S. Aquatic Sports, and her accomplishments sparkle and shine as brightly as the outfits her athletes don. Synchronized swimming coach Christine Carver has led the Santa Clara Aquamaids since 1984 in Santa Clara, Calif., and taken the U.S. Olympic team to the international stage for three consecutive games since 1996.

Her teams took two gold medals in the Atlanta Games, and last summer swept all bronze medals in duet and team routines. The club has produced 50 percent of the U.S. Olympic synchronized swimming team since 1984. In 2000, Carver was inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation International Hall of Fame.

She began synchronized swimming in the seventh grade when her gym teacher introduced her to the sport. At that time, synchronized swimmers practiced an hour a day for three to four months. Decades later, her Olympic teams logged six to eight hours a day, 11 months of the year. Carver spends even more time choreographing and editing music for the routines.

It’s coaches such as Carver who prove synchronized swimming involves more than just nose plugs, sparkly swimsuits and wide smiles. The eggbeater kick alone requires a lot of muscle power to keep swimmers moving, let alone more advanced moves that are hidden underwater.

Her athletes go through gymnastics training, followed by plyometrics, which strengthens their muscles without developing too much bulk. In addition, they swim 6,000 yards a day to achieve the strength worthy of competition, a far cry from the days of Esther Williams and her mermaid glamour. Synchro swimmers politely call her art “water ballet.”

A skin cancer survivor, Carver was the inspiration behind a Centers for Disease Control poster on sun protection awareness. Her Olympic team participated in honor of her battle.

Recently, the national team was moved from its historical location in Sarasota to Olympic committee training centers in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Chula Vista, Calif., where the team prepared for the 2005 World Championships. One of those centers will be the new training site for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This was a move Carver was not able to make, so she resigned from the post of head coach for the national team. But she continues to lead the Santa Clara Aquamaids as their head coach, preparing future Olympic stars. — Rin-rin Yu