Like all high-level athletes, first confinement requires, Jean-Philippe Jel, 43, did not resume training until the end of spring. The three months spent without being able to set foot in the swimming pool were a test for this Swiss synchronized swimming vice-champion. With his mover’s template, he detonates in the basin in the middle of the naiads.
“I am a synchro swimmer like the others, he assures without provocation. It is a family where the requirement and the search for the nice gesture bring us together. I fell in love watching my TV during the Rio Olympics in 2016. Since then, it’s been my passion. ” Nothing, however, predisposed this former soldier, naval officer, captain, marathon runner and crawl swimmer accomplished, never dancing in public, to embrace the world of artistic swimming. This unisex sport is totally dominated by women and men remain invisible. Only women can compete in international competitions, except in the case of mixed pairs.
“People stopped talking to me. We wondered if I was a pervert”
“Military for eight years, you can say that I went to the end of the clichés of what should be a man, he blurted. But it was as if I had put on a suit that did not correspond to me. synchro was a revelation. Before, sport could be a constraint, today it is only fun. For the first time in my life, I do something for myself. It’s a date with me -even.”
If synchronized swimming is obvious for Jean-Philippe, the beginnings are difficult. He began in 2016 with individual private lessons, then joined a club. A 40-year-old man playing among the girls? It talks outside the pools … “It’s simple, people have stopped talking to me, specifies this father whose partner supports his approach. We wondered if I was a pervert. At my first competition, the organizers told me that I could not compete, although it was allowed. For me, it was either I throw myself in the water or I hide. I ignored the eyes of others and I never backed down. The swimmers were amazed, of course, but they are in the best position to know how passionate this demanding sport is. Now I am accepted into the great family of synchronettes, as they say. “
“I don’t swim like a girl, I deal with my qualities”
One can’t help but think of the movie Le Grand Bain, released in 2018, where a group of adrift men form a synchronized swimming team. “It’s a comedy with magnificent losers. When it came out, I found the film a little superficial and I didn’t like it. But I must admit that I had just started my journey. I was perhaps not not ready to laugh about it. ” The only man with a synchro license in Switzerland, his performances have earned him the title of vice-champion of the country and the respect of his peers. With his coach, Inna, and Estelle, his synchro partner, he is working on his next mixed duet. Everything must be perfect during the two minutes that the test lasts. A sense of perfection that befits him.
Less flexible than his sisters, Jean-Philippe is more powerful. “I do not swim like a girl, I deal with my qualities. But I respect the codes of this sport to the letter, I am not in the provocation.” Choreography, music, costume, as in figure skating or ballroom dancing, no detail is left to chance. Jean-Philippe discovered the joys of color and sequins for his swimsuit. “This year, for my solo, it will be neon pink so that I can be seen in the water,” he jokes.
Jean-Philippe Jel © MURIEL ANTILLE