From race to grace: why these Regina men took up artistic swimming

Two Regina men are stepping outside their comfort zones to train for a sport that hasn’t traditionally included men.

Jacob Korpan and Jake Morris are taking on artistic swimming, often referred to as synchronized swimming.

Artistic swimming is ballet in the water where powerful swimmers work as a team to perform graceful, synchronized routines.

The mixed gender duets category made its world championship debut in 2015, and participants in the co-ed sport will find out in 2025 if it will get a spot in the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Jacob Korpan, 23, is a national level swimmer who has always had his eye on the Olympics. But to chase that dream he’s switching his focus from race to grace. Jake Morris, 22, is an elite water polo player who jumped into artistic swimming with both feet. They were both recruited by the Regina Synchronized Swimming Club, which is led by head coach Natalie Good.

Jake Morris, pictured, and Jacob Korpan are taking on artistic swimming, often referred to as synchronized swimming. (Dan Plaster / CBC)

Professional swim coach Jason Cawkwell trained Korpan when he was young, and coached Morris in water polo. He convinced them both to give artistic swimming a shot.

“I didn’t want to kind of promote it in the way of a sarcastic, ironic or teasing [way]. I was genuine and sincere that this might be something they would want to do, “Cawkwell said.

Cawkwell said he knew that both Korpan and Morris could handle any stigma that may come from competing in a sport considered strictly for women for more than a century. He said the two men are breaking barriers.

“They’re very strong characters. They’re very comfortable in themselves. They’re mature enough to be able to do this without worrying about other people being saying.”

Jacob Korpan, 23, is a national level swimmer who has always had his eye on the Olympics. (Dan Plaster / CBC)

Meanwhile, Morris said playing water polo gave him skills that are useful in artistic swimming.

“A lot of the movement skills are similar. And the egg-beater, which is the biggest part. [It’s] just very heavy in egg-beater for water polo. So, It comes in handy in synchro as well, “Morris said.

The eggbeater in swimming is a style of kicking where the swimmer’s legs alternate in one-legged breaststroke kicks, holding the swimmer afloat.

Korpan said he had to switch styles when transferring from national level swimming to artistic.

When I race swimming, I am getting my heart rate as high as I can before my event. I am go, go, go, slapping my chest, spraying water on myself. Just buzzing with energy. But with syncho you have to be very calm, “Korpan said.

“I’ve always gone as fast as I can from A to B, but now I have to be artistic and graceful and smooth and elegant.”

Morris said the same goes for switching from water polo to artistic swimming.

“It’s certainly challenging because a lot of movements I do [in water polo] are not quite as graceful as these ones. I’ll splash a lot more and not move as nicely, so it’s taken a sec to have to tell myself to calm down, move nice, be smooth, be graceful, “Morris said.

For Korpan, it’s all about being able to compete in the water, which has always been his greatest joy.

“I was swimming my entire life to make the Olympics and that’s still kind of it. That still is it. It’s just switched disciplines, but still in the water,” Korpan said.

Jake Morris, left, practices with the Regina Synchronized Swimming. (Dan Plaster / CBC)

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