‘Pioneering’ pair eye Team GB’s first Olympic artistic swimming medal in Paris

Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe are well aware they could make history for Team GB this summer – and hope to smash some stereotypes about artistic swimming in the process.

The Bristol-based duo have been selected for their second Olympics and have a shot at becoming the country’s first athletes to win a medal in the sport perhaps better recognised by its former name, synchro, if they can extend a string of recent successes to the pool in Paris this summer.

Thorpe and Shortman’s potential is so potent they have even been tipped by Team GB chef de mission Mark England to do for their sport what Tom Daley did for diving in Great Britain.

Isabelle Thorpe (left) and Kate Shortman at London's Sea Life aquarium
Isabelle Thorpe (left) and Kate Shortman at London’s Sea Life aquarium (John Walton/PA).

“We’re going for a medal and we’re taking each day as it comes. We’re doing everything we can in training and I think that’s the most important thing for us, just doing what we can, day in, day out, working hard on the grind and then this summer will take care of itself.

“It sounds kind of crazy saying it’s our second Games. I’m just really excited to get out there and hopefully as someone who has already been to a Games some new people can look up to us and we can lead the way a little bit which is really nice.”

The near-lifelong friends, both daughters of artistic swimmer mothers, met and started competing at about age seven and say their connection was instant. It was, in Thorpe’s words, “like having another sister”.

“We don’t really have big arguments, big bumps along the way,” added Shortman. “We’ve just kind of seen it all from each other. We know each other in absolutely every condition, bad mood, good mood. We’ve lived our best and worst shared experiences together.”

But, unlike those aquatic creatures, artistic swimmers need to develop some serious lungs to compete.

Shortman, who reckons she can hold her breath for at least three minutes, has an immediate answer when asked about artistic swimming’s biggest misconceptions, replying: “That it’s easy. It is not easy, let me tell you!.

Thorpe added: “I think in our routine, it’s three minutes long and for that we hold our breath for a minute-and-a-half, probably more. We’re not just still. We’re moving around in a 25 by 25 metre pool and we have to cover as much pool as we can.

“You’re trying to look nice, smile, and make it look like you’re not in pain.”

Isabelle Thorpe (left) and Kate Shortman will compete at their second Olympics in Paris
Isabelle Thorpe (left) and Kate Shortman will compete at their second Olympics in Paris (John Walton/PA)

Thorpe and Shortman delivered a first British European medal in a women’s duet for 30 years last summer, took tech duet silver and free duet bronze at the World Championships earlier this year – the country’s maiden global duet medals in the sport – and this month claimed gold at an Olympic test event at the same new Paris venue where they will compete in August.

Both agreed constant reminders about the fast-approaching Games from family and friends planning on making the quick trip across the Channel drive them to push harder in training, eyes firmly set on the unprecedented prize.

Chef de mission England added: “Tom Daley had the opportunity to really develop diving.

“They’ve done this, they haven’t had anybody to look to. They are complete pioneers in their sport. It’s incredible what they could do. A medal from these two would be groundbreaking.”

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