Swimming in a Fountain of Youth

Miriam Larson hasn’t forgotten losing swim meets to Esther Williams at the Pasadena Athletic Club during high school, a competitive spirit that continues to this day. Williams may have gone on to fame as a mermaid of the silver screen, but Larson hasn’t exactly been treading water.

The Unsyncables, the synchronized swimming team that Larson co-founded in 1985, has taken four trophies for overall performance since 1997 in the United States Synchronized Swimming Master’s competition.

Sports purists may crack wise, but “synchro,” in which swimmers perform choreographed routines with costumes and music, is a demanding endurance discipline going well beyond the “ ‘Strictly Ballroom’ with water wings” image. After the sport debuted at the ’84 Summer Olympics, Larson, 82, and friend Lizzi Jakobsen of Arcadia joined a class at the Pasadena YWCA, because, according to Jakobsen, 74, “regular swimming can get boring.” Seventeen years later, the Unsyncables owe much to the coaching of Dawn Bean, 74, a synchro competition director at the ’84 Olympics. The floundering group had sought out Bean in 1992 before entering its first world competition. “I was horrified by what they were trying to do,” Bean says.

The Unsyncables welcome swimmers of all experience levels and range in age from 22 to 82.


Some members compete, while others just enjoy the sport in weekly practices at the City opf Industry Pacific Palms resort pool. The group of about 30 members stays afloat financially by performing water shows. “I enjoy the shows more than competition,” says Jenifer Hanrahan, 30, of Aliso Viejo. “After it’s over, you get to drink wine and eat caviar.”

More competitive than her younger teammate, Larson maintains a rivalry at national competitions with a fellow octogenarian from another team--shades, perhaps, of those long-ago matches against Williams. Win or lose, the bathing beauties of the Unsyncables delight in their sport. Best of all, Larson adds, “You don’t feel old in the water.”

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