Totally hyped about the Games, every month we’ll be joining our Olympic heroes for a training session - and an insight into what it takes to win gold. First off, Zest's Laura Potter is in at the deep end with the GB synchronised swimming team

Description: Swimming Team

OK, so I've a confession to make. I'm not a natural swimmer and when it comes to gymnastics - does mastering a roly-poly count? The thought of combining both these 'talents' to train with the British synchronised swimming team is seriously daunting. But I'm a Zestie after all so, undeterred; I pack my swimsuit and goggles and head off to meet them. By the time I arrive at Aldershot's specially-deep training pool at 1 lam (you're not allowed to touch the bottom in synchro routines), they’ve already been in the water for four hours! Turns out their training regime is a gruelling 42 hours a week - 30 in the water and the rest in the gym, I'm shattered just thinking about it.

'A typical day is a 45-mmute workout, then an hour and a half of speed swimming, four hours of synchro, a break for lunch, then back in the water for another few hours,' says senior squad member, Katie Dawkins. 'We also do lots of Pilates and weight training for the lifts. It's hard work, but our sport demands perfection.' All that hard work is definitely paying off - the team has jumped from 20th in the world five years ago to eighth this year and is targeting a top-six finish for 2012.

As I join them, the team is already practising the routine they'll showcase at the Stratford Aquatic Centre come July. It's a flurry of pointed toes, twirling limbs and winning smiles. Every movement is precise, perfectly timed and covers the length and breadth of the pool. This is going to be a challenge!

First up, the team's high-performance coach, Adele Carlsen, teaches me a basic 'back layout scull’, which forms the foundation for many moves. You have to stay completely flat on the water, while sculling your arms. I'm pushing my hips up and tensing every muscle just to avoid sinking. It's much tougher than it looks. Either my hips are up but my toes aren't pointed, or my toes are pointed bur my legs aren't tense - as soon as I get to grips with one element another goes all to pot. Who knew floating was so difficult?

The team prepares for Laura’s lift

Now it’s time for a 'move'. Adele begins by tempering my expectations: it's possible that I may not perform this move with effortless grace, as most newbies wouldn't attempt it for at least a month. It's called a 'ballet leg single' and involves lying flat, sculling along, with one leg straight up in the air. Oh, God. Adele grips one of my feet as I desperately attempt to stay afloat. As she lets go, I raise my teg, my hips drop, my bum plummets and I sink like a stone - I can only imagine how tragically ungraceful I look. A few more words of encouragement and I've just about managed to keep a bent leg in the air for a millisecond before sinking without trace again. I'm now beginning to see how tough this sport really is. The synchro team may look calm and elegant on the surface, but underneath their bodies are working furiously hard. How they manage to do all that and smile is beyond me.

Showing off her ballet leg.

Next, I have to tackle my nemesis, the underwater somersault - and a backwards one at that. As 1 cling to the side, knuckles whitening (dramatic, me?), Adele tells me to tuck my knees in. she'll roll me halfway and gravity will do the rest. It sounds easy, but once she's sent me spinning I'm completely disorientated, A few more words of encouragement, a little trust in gravity and I finally make it all the way round. At which point, Adele asks me to lengthen out my body halfway round and point my toes to the ceiling. I wonder why I ever thought Zumba routines were complicated.

Coach Adele helps (smiling underwater) perfect a move. Laura is successfully launched.

Synchro bootcamp complete, it's time to attempt a lift. The squad has enlisted the help of figure-skating supremo Robin Cousins to supercharge their lifts, which they practise on land, then transfer to water - like Dirty Dancing, but in reverse. And guess who gets to emerge, Venus like... The girls will surround me, then dip under the water, grab my feet and launch me skywards. They recommend falling backwards if I lose my balance so no one gets injured, but by some miracle I stay standing!

Training over, I have a newfound respect for these sportswomen. Synchro is physically, technically and mentally demanding. Eight people have to be perfectly synchronised and every sinew in their bodies perfectly placed. I'm proud I've performed a routine with Team GB - but doubt ill have been talent-spotted!

For more tips from the squad, and to learn the body benefits synchro swimming can deliver, visit sesi.co.uk.


DUET: Two swimmers can perform a routine. Look out for our girls, Commonwealth medallists Olivia Allison and Jenna Randall, in 2012.

BACK LAYOUT: The most basic position. The swimmer lies on her back with her face, chest, thighs and feet at the surface of the water.

SCULL: Different hand movements used to propel the body are the most essential part of synchro.

BALLET LEG: One leg is extended at 90 degrees to the surface of the water, with the body in a back layout position.

SOMERSAULT BACK TUCK: Knees are tucked into chest, nose to knees, the swimmer then pushes her bottom up to propel herself into a backwards somersault.

EGGBEATER KICK: A way of treading water that keeps you stable vertically at chest height in the water with your hands free to perform strokes

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