Couple `in golden pool' as synchronized swimming duet

Strains of Beethoven fill the pool area as Louise Wing dives into the water. Her synchronized swimming solo begins with difficult underwater work with her arms as she extends her legs out of the water, her toes reaching toward the ceiling. She finishes the routine, rests momentarily, and then joins Fred Wing, her husband, to work on their duet. As the couple runs through the routine, Mrs. Wing slows down slightly to keep synchronized with her spouse, who has been doing synchronized swimming for a shorter time than his wife.

Mixed-gender duets are unusual in this sport, but the Wings stand out for another reason as well - they are in their 70s.

The Wings, who now live in nearby Lynn, Mass., have both been swimming since childhood, but they became involved in synchronized swimming in very different ways.

``I always played in the water from the time I was a year old and saw water, but there wasn't any competition at all for girls, you know,'' said Mrs. Wing. ``Ladies were supposed to be ladies and sit on the porch and pour lemonade in those days. By the time synchro came in I was already director of swimming at the Boston YWCA. So I said to the girls, `Here's a lovely new sport, I don't know anything about it, but let's try it,' so we did.''

At first the team put on water shows because there were no groups to compete against, but in 1950, Mrs. Wing and her team put on the first synchronized swimming competition in New England. They competed against a nearby town, and since both teams were fairly new at the sport, the type of swimming was more like marching band formations than the difficult stunt-filled routines of today's meets.

Since that time, Mrs. Wing has continued to teach, and 13 years ago she began to compete herself. She has won numerous age-group medals for her solos in both national and international competitions. She has also worked with other swimmers to win medals in trios and duets.

Her husband, a retired contracting officer for the Department of Defense, also began swimming as a child, but he tended to stick to the lap swimming. ``I have been swimming all my life, mostly distance swimming,'' said Mr. Wing. ``I used to go to the pool and do laps. I saw Louise teaching in exactly the same pool year after year and I got tired of carrying her equipment or staying home alone while she was away at meets.''

Wing decided the best way to solve those problems was to learn synchronized swimming himself. Much to his wife's surprise, he showed up one day in 1985, at age 73, and climbed into the pool with her class. He has been swimming with her ever since.

Together, the Wings have won their share of awards in duet competitions. Their living room table is laden with ribbons, trophies, and medals. They are the national mixed duet champions of their age group, and they placed third in the 1985 World Games in Toronto.

When they are not practicing or competing, the Wings spend their time helping to promote the sport. In New England, Mrs. Wing teaches her own class of ``golden agers'' synchronized swimming. She also coaches and works with other promising swimmers. She is the administrator for New England synchronized swimming and is responsible for registering all the swimmers and sanctioning all the meets.

She and her husband were the main organizers of the synchronized swimming competition at this summer's Bay State Games, sort of an Olympics for Massachusetts in which she was chosen one of the outstanding volunteers.

Their partnership has attracted a fair amount of media attention, which provides an opportunity for them to educate the public about their sport.

Mrs. Wing says she even thinks the publicity is good for her husband's swimming. ``I think that it has helped Fred in this way: He is embarrassed by all the publicity and he feels he has to score better so he has been practicing more.''

Though Fred may want to practice more, that is not always as easy as it sounds. The Wings live right on a lake, but they find it difficult to swim there. Mrs. Wing has tried a few times to construct a pier which she could use to swim from and from which she could hang a marker to be a guide on her figure work, but water skiers on the lake have destroyed it every time.

So the Wings generally practice at the Jewish Community Center in Marblehead, Mass. They rarely have the pool to themselves and they have to work around other classes.

``We practice during the aquasize classes that are jumping up and down in the shallow water,'' said Mrs. Wing. Their primary problem is finding a time when they can use their music because the aquasize classes have music of their own.

Yet the Wings patiently and calmly work around the problems and use whatever time they can to their advantage. Since they are so well known in the sport, they can sometimes find other pools around the Boston area that will allow them to work on their routines before officially opening.

The Wings have devoted their lives to synchronized swimming. They have helped the sport take root in New England and have worked to make it strong elsewhere. And they still like the excitement and challenge of competition, such as this month's national championships in Winter Haven, Fla., where once again they could prove that synchronized swimming is an activity anyone can enjoy. Quotable quotes

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