In July of 2017, FINA, the international governing body of competitive swimming, officially declared that synchronized swimming would be called ‘artistic swimming.’ The debut of artistic swimming in the Tokyo Olympics has ignited fresh debate within the swimming and synchronized swimming world about what implications this change would have for synchronized swimming’s identity, reputation, and future, especially among those who believe that the change diminished the athletic credibility of synchronized swimming as a sport and not merely a form of performance art. This debate raises a lot of interesting questions about art and its intersections with other disciplines: Does having an artistic component mean that a sport is ‘easier’? Can something be both a sport and an art, without diminishing its value as either? What about gymnastics, skateboarding, surfing, and more — don’t these sports all have a certain artistic component as well? Ultimately, how do we (and do we even need to?) refine our epistemological understanding of what a sport is, and what art is?
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