Dream big: USA artistic swim team aims to qualify for Tokyo 2020

Can this group of young Olympic hopefuls surprise at the Pan American Games 2019 in Lima and secure a spot for Tokyo 2020 in artistic swimming? 

By Sven Busch

The time is now for the USA artistic swim team.

Young, ambitious, and eager to show the world at the Pan American Games 2019 in Lima that they have what it takes to make it to Tokyo 2020 after a 12-year-absence from the Games.

Their brave and brand new robot routine has been getting a lot of attention in recent months, and Olympic Channel has gone behind the scenes to document their progress.

Can this group of young hopefuls, their star choreographer and four-time Olympic medal winning coach Andrea Fuentes reach Tokyo 2020?

Only the winner of the women's team event at the Pan American Games 2019 will gain an automatic Olympic qualifying spot.

Against all odds

They have been trying to achieve the near-impossible. In just five months.

Here is the story so far: Olympic Channel has followed their inspiring journey. From working hard with "Mr. Robot" Chadd Smith to their training camp in Las Vegas.

We were in Barcelona where the USA artistic swim team showcased their revolutionary routine for the first time outside of the US, and we witnessed their performance at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea.

Check out their emotional story in the following episodes.

11 girls, one dream

The USA artistic swim team hasn't reached an Olympics since 2008. These 11 determined girls are aiming to change that.

The U.S. Federation enlisted the help of famous robot dancer Chadd Smith (aka Madd Chadd) with the aim of developing a competitive synchronised routine in time for the world championships and Lima 2019.

A very ambitious plan.

"We wanted to create a routine where people question the reality of what they are seeing," explains Smith. And of course, to impress the judges.

From Korea to Peru

After presenting the unique robot routine at the FINA World Championships 2019 in Gwangju, Korea for the first time in a major competition word spread very quickly that these women were attempting something totally new for the sport.

While team entrances to the pool are traditionally silky smooth, the United States’ jittering, mechanical approach – designed to imitate a robot walking – is unique and attention grabbing.

The team displayed some well-executed lifts and jumps that drew plenty of ‘oos’ and ‘ahhs’ from the bleachers.

Their final score was 84.40 points which was commendable but only good enough for an 11th place finish in the final.

“We are 90% happy, but the coach always wants to do a little bit better. It was our best performance ever,” coach Fuentes told Olympic Channel immediately after their FINA World Championships 2019 final

Uphill battle in Lima

Fuentes told us that she intends to make some changes for their upcoming Pan American Games routine.

"We know it is going to be difficult as we just came from the world championships. This is just one week after. The body is super tired, and now the mind has to be strong. This is what I ask of the team as they seem super tired," she said to Olympic Channel.

"I told them you must try and fight. You have to finish with pride. For most of them it is the first time at Pan American Games so this will be a big injection of motivation. "

It will take an amazing performance to finish top in Lima and outclass the favourites Canada and Mexico.

"I am super excited to get another opportunity. We just got back from Korea, and we still need to improve a lot of things," said Team USA's Hannah Heffernan. "We definittely need a miracle but we are doing everything we can."

Should they not win in Lima there is still another chance to make their Olympic dream come true.

The last 3 qualifying spots for the Olympic Games 2020 will be awarded at the final Olympic Qualification competition in April in Tokyo.