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On This Date in Sports August 9, 1984: Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie in Perfect Sync

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

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Synchronized Swimming makes its Olympic debut at the summer games in Los Angeles. Originally called Water Ballet, the sport of Synchronized Swimming was popular in the 1930s with the Kay Curtis Modern Mermaids going on a series of barnstorming tours. Later Esther Williams popularized the sport in a series of movies. Williams worked as an announcer for ABC at the games, as Americans Candy Costie and Tracie Ruiz won the Gold Medal.

While Synchronized Swimming was popular it had trouble gaining acceptance as most viewed as too artistic to be athletic though it was showcased at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a demonstration sport. The sport got a major breakthrough in 1971 when FINA, the International Swimming Federation began to recognize it as an official water sport, along with swimming, diving, and water polo. A decade later, Synchronized Swimming became an official medal event at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

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Competition in the Women’s Duet event was held over two days at the Olympic Swim Stadium on the campus of USC. The Americans Candy Costie and Tracie Ruiz were the favorites in the event and scored well in the technical stage on August 6th as they recorded a score of 96.584. Three days later the pair were nearly flawless in the Free Swim, with 99.00 as the easily won the Gold Medal, with a combined score of 195.584. The Canadian duo of Sharon Hambrook and Kelly Kryczka won the Silver Medal with a score of 194.234. While Japan’s duo of Saeko Kimura and Milwako Motoyoshi got the Bronze Medal at 187.992.

Both Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie were 21 during the 1984 Olympics as they trained together in Seattle. The pair began competing together at the 1982 World Aquatics Championships in Ecuador, where they won a Silver Medal. In 1983, they captured a Gold Medal together at the Pan Am Games in Venezuela.

Tracie Ruiz would go on to win a second Gold Medal at the 1984 Olympics, as one swimmer from each team went on to compete in a figures competition. Ruiz would score high marks again, with a 99.467 technical score and a 98.20 free score to easily defeat Carolyn Waldo of Canada, while Milwako Motoyoshi of Japan got another Bronze Medal.

Tracie Ruiz would battle Waldo again in 1988, and narrowly missing a third Gold Medal as she settled for the Silver Medal in Seoul. She would go down in history as one of the most decorated swimmers in United States history as she was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale in 1993. At the same time, she became a mother, having married former Penn State Linebacker Michael Anthony Conforto. Their son Michael Thomas Conforto currently is an outfielder for the New York Mets.

The individual event in Synchronized Swimming eventually was removed from the Olympic Program, though another swimmer with a baseball connection, Kristen Babb-Sprague winning a Gold Medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Her husband Ed Sprague would help the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series a few months later.

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